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Justice John Paul Stevens says he may retire soon

Justice John Paul Stevens, the leader of the U.S. Supreme Court's liberal wing, told the New Yorker in an interview that he will decide in early April whether he will retire at the end of the court's current term.

Stevens, the court's oldest justice at 89, told the magazine he has his "options open." Although he has hired only one law clerk for the nine-month term that will start in October, Stevens said three former clerks had agreed to work for him again should he decide to stay on the court for another term.

He said he will certainly step down before President Barack Obama's term expires in January 2013. Stevens told the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin that he has "great admiration" for the president.

"You can say I will retire within the next three years," Stevens said. "I'm sure of that." Interviewed on March 8, Stevens said he would make up his mind in about a month.

The court's current term is scheduled to end in late June. Justices typically announce their retirement near the end of a term so that a successor can be seated by October.

Stevens was appointed to the court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford. He supports gay and abortion rights and limits on government support for religion. He is the only justice to say the death penalty was unconstitutional.

He has shown few signs of slowing down, playing tennis regularly and writing a 90-page dissent when the court in January struck down restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

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