Who would be the supreme Stevens substitute?

If there’s a liberal bone in your body, you are not happy about the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. One must give Stevens credit for holding out much longer than necessary or expected, since he is nearly 90 years old. Most of us can barely imagine living that long, let alone going to work every day. By proudly carrying the torch for decades, Stevens has done the impossible .

The truth is that Justice John Paul Stevens can never be fully replaced. Stevens’ presence on the court brought wisdom, experience and power. He was a judge who knew how to build coalitions and how to write solid opinions. He was extraordinarily skilled in his knowledge of the law, and even knew how to dissent against fellow dissenters. Only another justice on the court could fill such a gaping role, and that justice is likely not going to be a liberal.

Obama will surely get significant Republican resistance against any nominee who can be painted as an activist, so in spite of the fact that both he and Congress are Democratic, he can’t appoint the kind of replacement that would make us all happy. Obama’s tendency to lean center-left in judicial appointments will surely lead to an underwhelming choice in the end.

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I don’t expect President Obama to allow me or anyone else to influence his next choice for the Supreme Court. But hey, this is America, so perhaps I am in a position to speak a more accurate truth than President Obama himself. The choice of the next Supreme Court justice, while daunting and stressful, is also an opportunity for America to try a little bit harder to live up to its ideals. If I had a wish list for what the president would look for in his replacement of Justice Stevens, the list would look something like this:

A black woman would be nice: Has anyone ever realized that there are thousands of black female lawyers and judges across America who might be qualified for the Supreme Court? Just thought I’d throw that out there, since the president’s wife happens to be one of them. Maybe it’s time for a black woman to get her shot at the court – we’d just have to keep her away from Clarence Thomas (we can’t have another sex scandal like we had during Thomas’ circus appointment in 1991).

Not to focus on religion, but a Protestant might be considered: In spite of the fact that Protestantism is the most popular faith in the country, Stevens was the only Protestant justice on the Supreme Court. Not to bible thump, but I can understand why Protestants might be a bit upset about this disparity. As much as we try to separate church and state, the truth is that the United States is a country full of Americans who care very deeply about their faith. I would imagine that behind closed doors, there is a discussion going on about the religion of the next Supreme Court nominee.

More liberals please: The right lean of the Supreme Court over the past 30 years has been disturbing. Whenever someone on the court quits or dies, it seems that they are almost always liberal. The idea that Obama will appoint a liberal to the court is a no-brainer, even if that person is not ideal. Hopefully, our court can regain its balance.

Are you as sick of Harvard and Yale as I am?: With the retirement of Justice Stevens, the entire Supreme Court now consists of Harvard and Yale graduates. Sorry to disappoint you, but those are not the only two high quality law schools in America. Call me facetious, but perhaps we should have a 50-year moratorium on Harvard/Yale grads on the Supreme Court to make room for some of the 200 other ABA-accredited law schools who also have intelligent graduates with meaningful opinions. Remember: Harvard/Yale graduates are not always perfect – just ask former President George W. Bush (he attended both). Bush’s embarrassing tenure as president reminds us of the flaws of a society in which the power pool is only gathered from a select few locations.

Yes, we need a woman of any race: There are only two women on the court, and there should be at least 4 or 5. Women and men have very different views of the world, and the law affects them in different ways. In 2011, women will represent the majority of the American workforce. At the end of the day, having another female on the court is not just good for our country, but it is absolutely necessary. Women should be equal stakeholders in the American dream.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. For more information, please visit BoyceWatkins.com>