With his chief counsel and chief of staff by his side, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the press briefing room on Friday, addressing the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter and laying our what kind of appointment he would make in his place.
With no advanced warning, even for Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the President took to the podium to read a brief set of prepared remarks. He had just gotten off the phone with Souter, he announced, and wanted to say a few words about the conversation.
"Throughout his two decades on Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be an independent and fair minded judge," said Obama. "He consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task: reaching a just result in the case that was before him."
As for making a choice to replace him on the bench, Obama laid out broad markers. Promising to "consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum," the president said he would like to see "our new Supreme Court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the court's new term begins."
As for the type of person he would appoint, Obama offered the following details (rush transcript):
"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or a footnote in a casebook. It is also about how our laws affect ... peoples' lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcomed in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples' hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for the constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time."
Some more video from the briefing: