Wanted: Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Extensive legal experience required. Must look dead sexy in floor-length black robe. Must pass unspoken litmus test on certain issues that rhyme with snabortion, brivacy, traligion, windividual kliberties and draffirmative traction. White men need not apply.

Barely out of his first 100 days in office, President Obama got the word that Justice David Souter was eager to relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court. Souter, appointed in 1990 by George H.W. Bush – who thought he was getting a moderate northeastern Yankee conservative like himself – became a staunch ally of the court’s liberal wing. He has voted with Samuel Alito, the newest member of the court and solid conservative, only 14 percent of the time, according to the Economist.

Souter’s unexpected departure, considering his relative youth (69) and the advancing age of fellow liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, Stephen Breyer, nearing 71, and John Paul Stevens, 89, and questions of Ginsburg’s health after her well-publicized battle with pancreatic cancer, will not fundamentally alter the ideological bent of the court, but it may significantly improve its dearth of diversity.

In the history of the court, 106 of the 110 justices have been white men. President Obama has expressed interest in diversifying the court, both by deepening its “empathy” towards the needs of citizens and by broadening the backgrounds of its jurists.

Realize that for the president, tapping a new justice must account for three primary requirements: principally, who would be the best legal and ideological candidate for the post, who would most please the president’s constituency and who would be feasible to confirm without a drag-out brawl. Obama finds himself in a strong political position, half a year removed from his commanding election victory and armed with dominant majorities in the House and the Senate. The trick will be to push his advantage far enough to get a justice he and his supporters truly want without providing excessive fodder for a moribund GOP aching for a fight.

Obama will likely at minimum have one or two more appointments during his four or eight years in office, and as Ronald Reagan might tell him, expending too much political capital on a single seat is a serious folly (in 1987, Reagan suffered the confirmation defeat of Robert Bork and was forced to preemptively pull another name out of consideration, Douglas Ginsburg, before settling on a candidate more moderate that he or his backers would have initially preferred, Anthony Kennedy – the current court’s swing vote).

So what options does Obama have? The names mentioned most prominently so far include Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (woman, from a moderate state and outside the judicial beltway, previously vetted for political office, young [50]); Second Circuit federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor (woman, would be first Latino/a on the court, a difficult by-the-bootstraps life makes her full of “empathy”); Dean of Yale Law Harold Koh (would be first Asian American on the bench, was Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights under Clinton, his family’s story of immigration and success in America mirrors Obama’s); Solicitor General Elena Kagan (woman, young [49], familiar with the court and Obama government, former Dean of Harvard Law); Seventh Circuit judge Diane Wood (woman, from Obama’s teaching alma mater at U. Chicago Law School) and Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law (woman, young, openly gay, solid liberal intellectual).

Jeffrey Toobin’s terrific chronicle of the Supreme Court, The Nine, details an amusing story of one of Justice Souter’s frequent driving trips from Washington to his beloved New Hampshire. Souter, stopping to eat at a diner in Massachusetts, was approached by a couple asking if he was a justice on the Supreme Court. He answered yes, and they exclaimed that it was a pleasure to meet him, “Justice Breyer.”

Toobin notes that many people apparently mistake Justices Souter and Breyer, and that this was not the first time the mix-up had been made. Good-naturedly, Justice Souter answered some of the couple’s questions. Finally, they asked “Justice Breyer” to name his favorite aspect of life on the court. Souter paused, then said, “I’d have to say it’s the privilege of serving with David Souter.”

The Supreme Court has become the most polarizing and political non-partisan body in the country, and the infamous confirmation hearings to fill its bench display some of the worst aspects of our nature – vindictiveness, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, personal and party grandstanding. Irrespective of his decisions and ultimate place in the history of the court, Justice Souter stands as an all-too-rare example of a jurist who viewed his position with humility, humor and the perspective to know when to step away.

A fine example for his replacement.