Reports: Souter to Retire From Supreme Court
Friday, May 01, 2009
July 9, 2008: U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, smiles after speaking during a dedication ceremony at the State Supreme Courthouse in Concord.
Supreme Court Justice David Souter has reportedly decided to retire from the Supreme Court, a move that will provide President Barack Obama his first opportunity to nominate someone to the nation's highest court.
The White House has been told that Souter will retire in June, when the court finishes its work for the summer, a source familiar with his plans said Thursday night. He almost certainly would remain on the bench until a successor is confirmed.
FOX News has not independently confirmed the report. The source spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Souter.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman issued no comment on Souter's speculated retirement.
Souter, 69, is widely regarded as one of the most liberal members of the bench. As such, his departure would not likely lead to a significant change in the close idealogical split that currently defines the Court
Souter's presence in the current liberal block of the Court is a long-standing matter of frustration for conservatives who feel his appointment in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush — a Republican — was a missed opportunity.
Two years later, Souter joined Justice Anthony Kennedy and now retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (who were appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan) in crafting an opinion that affirmed the right to an abortion
. The opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey still stands as the most significant abortion related case since Roe v. Wade.
Souter was also part of majority in Kelo v. New London. The 2005 case that gave local governments the right to take private property by eminent domain and give it to other private interests
. The decision led to protests outside Souter's beloved New Hampshire home.
That home may very well be part of the reason he's leaving the bench. Souter is rarely seen in Washington outside the courtroom. "We know that he is attached to his hometown," Tushnet said. "But he always took his duties at the Court very seriously."
"One of the leaders of the dissents," is how University of Kentucky law professor and former Souter clerk Paul Salamanca described Souter's legacy because of the frequency with which he found himself at odds with the numerically superior conservative justices. Salamanca said in teaching his students about legal writing, he utilizes a little-known dissent from 1996 in a case involving the Seminole Tribe.
Souter also was in the minority in Bush v. Gore where he thought Florida should have been given more time to count ballots. Instead, the 5-4 ruling halted the vote-counting and led to George W. Bush's presidential victory.
Interest groups immediately began gearing up for what could be a grueling battle over the president's first pick to the high court.
"We're looking for President Obama to choose an eminently qualified candidate who is committed to the core constitutional values, who is committed to justice for all and not just a few," said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice.
Some of the names that have been circulating include recently confirmed Solicitor General Elena Kagan; U.S. Appeals Court Judges Sonya Sotomayor, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Sandra Lea Lynch and Diane Pamela Wood; and Leah Ward Sears, chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Men who have been mentioned as potential nominees include Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein and U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo of Chicago.
Souter has never made any secret of his dislike for Washington, once telling acquaintances he had "the world's best job in the world's worst city." When the court finishes its work for the summer, he quickly departs for his beloved New Hampshire.
National Public Radio first reported Souter's plans Thursday night.