Stevens is 89 and has has hired fewer law clerks than usual, leading to chatter that the leader of the court's liberals will retire next year. He joined the court in 1975 and is the second-oldest justice in the court's history, after Oliver Wendell Holmes. He is the seventh-longest-serving justice, with more than 33 years and eight months on the court.
In response to a question from The Associated Press, Stevens confirmed through a court spokeswoman Tuesday that he has hired only one clerk for the term that begins in October 2010. He usually hires four.
But one former clerk, University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai, said he takes it as a sign that Stevens is likely to retire soon.
"It seems to indicate that he probably won't go beyond the current term," said one former clerk, University of Oklahoma Law Professor Joseph Thai.
Earlier this year, Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter. She was confirmed by the Senate last month.
Get more: The Associated Press