In a letter penned, “My dear Mr. President,” Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens officially informed Obama at 10:30 am of his planned retirement scheduled for this summer, with the replacement short list names – Merrick Garland, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood – already in media circulation.

The retirement of the court’s oldest member and leader of the liberal bloc will unlikely upset the delicate yet strangled balance of the court’s political weight with Obama sure to appoint a liberal replacement, much like Obama’s first court replacement Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Although Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-Ky) is already promising that “Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint” to any nominee, the Democrats still control the Senate with 59 votes, a factor that no doubt contributed to the timing of Stevens’ retirement.

Stevens, a 1975 President Gerald Ford nomination, has sided with the liberal bloc on abortion, civil rights, and church-state relations, as well as the Bush v Gore Presidential race.

Stevens will finish the current SCOTUS term, which ends in late June or early July, before stepping down. He said he hopes his successor will be confirmed before the court’s next term in October.

That will provide Democrats the majority vote before the November elections which, according to polls, are continuing to sour for the Democrats. Gallup released a poll yesterday showing Democrats favorably rating at an 18-year low.

Stevens’ successor short list is already being bantered in the media, though the White House has only said they will make an announcement in the coming weeks from a 10-name list already compiled.

The leading candidates to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens are Elena Kagan, the first-female Solicitor General; Merrick Garland, a D.C. Circuit appeals judge; and Diane Wood, a Clinton appointee to the Chicago Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.