WASHINGTON -- Liberal Associate Justice John Paul Stevens says he will retire from the U.S. Supreme Court while Barack Obama is president.
Stevens, 89, may leave the high court as early as this year, The Washington Post reported April 4.
"I can tell you that I love the job, and deciding whether to leave it is a very difficult decision," he told The Post. "But I want to make it in a way that's best for the court.
"I will surely do it while [Obama is] president."
If he retires this year, Stevens would announce his decision in time to provide for the nomination and confirmation of a new justice before the court's next term begins in October, he told the newspaper. The court's term normally ends in late June or early July.
The nominee of Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975, Stevens' disclosure confirms he will permit a Democrat to name his replacement.
When Stevens retires, Obama is expected to replace the leader of the court's liberal wing with a liberal-leaning justice. Stevens has been the court's leading liberal since at least 1994, when Associate Justice Harry Blackmun retired.
In his votes, Stevens has consistently supported abortion rights and was part of a six-member majority that overturned a state ban on same-sex sodomy in 2003.
Three people have been mentioned in news reports as leading candidates to replace Stevens: U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood; and District of Columbia Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.
A native of Chicago, Stevens served on the Seventh Circuit for five years before joining the Supreme Court.