STEVENS SENDING SIGNALS…. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has been fairly transparent about his intention to retire from the bench. Last fall, the high court’s oldest member hired only a single law clerk — as a rule, that’s a pretty big hint — and Stevens conceded to Jeff Toobin weeks ago that he will step down before the end of Obama’s first term.

This morning, both the New York Times and Washington Post publish interviews with the 89-year-old Ford appointee, and given justices’ general reluctance to chat with major media outlets, it’s not unreasonable to think Stevens’ retirement announcement may be imminent.

There are still pros and cons to be considered,” Justice John Paul Stevens said in his Supreme Court chambers on Friday afternoon, reflecting on his reluctance to leave a job he loves after almost 35 years. But his calculus seemed to be weighted toward departure, and he said his decision on the matter would come very soon.

“I do have to fish or cut bait, just for my own personal peace of mind and also in fairness to the process,” he said. “The president and the Senate need plenty of time to fill a vacancy.”

When Stevens steps down, it will mark the end of an era: he is the last justice to have served in World War II, lived through Prohibition, and was around for the start of the Great Depression.

In terms of the Supreme Court’s stark ideological divisions, Stevens’ departure would not likely change the makeup of the bench — despite having been nominated by a Republican president, Stevens is one of the high court’s most reliably liberal votes. President Obama, who Stevens praised in his interviews, would intend to replace Stevens with another progressive voice, keeping the center-left bloc with four votes (joining Ginsburg, Stevens, and Sotomayor).

The White House is reportedly “bracing for a summertime confirmation battle,” and some names of jurists likely to be considered have already become the subject of D.C. scuttlebutt.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.