Justice Souter To Retire?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Supreme Court

That’s the speculation from NPR, but it’s definitely not as big a shakeup as if a conservative justice would have announced. Because even though Souter was appointed by the elder Bush, he has been long considered one of the more liberal Justices.

Here’s more…

So far as anyone knows, he is in good health. But he has made clear to friends for some time that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire. Now, according to reliable sources, he has decided to take the plunge and has informed the White House of his decision.

Factors in his decision no doubt include the election of President Obama, who would be more likely to appoint a successor attuned to the principles Souter has followed as a moderate-to-liberal member of the court’s more liberal bloc over the past two decades.

In addition, Souter was apparently satisfied that neither the court’s oldest member, 89-year-old John Paul Stevens, nor its lone woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had cancer surgery over the winter, wanted to retire at the end of this term. Not wanting to cause a second vacancy, Souter apparently had waited to learn his colleagues’ plans before deciding his own.

By the way, Souter is 69 and nowhere near to being the oldest Justice on the bench. And that’s why I hold up his tenure as the model others should follow since he’s been in there roughly 20 years.


Because these lifetime appointments are simply not democratic. Personally, I’m in favor of 16 year appointments and then they retire. Yes, it politicizes appointments, but they’re already politicized and we all realize that. So we might as well know when they’ll be stepping down so voters can add that to their decision making process when stepping into the voting booth.

More as it develops…

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 and is filed under Supreme Court. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Justice Souter To Retire?”

  1. michael reynolds Says:

    You gotta like a guy who doesn’t take to Washington. (Not as a political symbol but as a city.) It’s overcast, humid, awful in summer, grim in winter. Its full of self-important jackasses yammering into their earpieces, a snob system based entirely on school credentials, stuffed with lawyers, with mediocre restaurants and second-rate hotels. Thank God they have the Smithsonian or the city would be a complete waste.

  2. michael reynolds Says:

    Which I guess explains why, when the Telegraph asked me to do a piece on my favorite city I went with Chicago not Washington:


    Sorry. Plugola. Go about your business.

  3. Zach Says:

    I’m a big Souter fan as well. And he reminds me that there was a lot to like about Bush Sr.. The president who didn’t go into Iraq. The president who asked us to be “A kinder, gentler nation”. Everyone laughed then. Now…with all the acrimony we see and hear, I wish he would ask that again, specifically of his own party.

  4. TerenceC Says:

    Michael R —

    I will miss Souter……it’s starting to sound like the Obama administration (providing it serves 8 years) will have the potential to appoint 5 justices to the Supreme Court – are any of the “bad” one’s on deck to retire I wonder?

    Nice article by the way . I prefer the The Whitehall hotel – it’s within staggering distance after several Blue Label’s at Hugo’s Frog bar (the Sea food is excellent too) – and any kind of barbecue at the Twin Anchors on Sedgwick. Although I agree with most of the article you forgot to mention that the Spring and Fall aren’t to be missed since the weather is excellent and most of the tourists have gone home.

  5. Simon Says:

    We’ve all heard the rumors over the years, but nevertheless – and perhaps because we’ve heard it so many times – I find it hard to believe that he’ll actually go. It’s the best job in the world for a legal generalist, he enjoys it, and he’s good at it.

    I often disagree with his conclusions; more importantly, his view of how legal interpretation ought to be done is not mine, which is why we often come to different conclusions. Nevertheless, Souter gets high marks from me for his services to those of us who read the court’s output trying to understand what it’s done, why, and where it’s going with this. He is one of the most consistently clear and effective writers on the court; even Scalia has off days (his opinion in the FCC case this week, for example), but Souter almost invariably turns out opinions that clearly and concisely convey what he’s saying and why. There are innumerable cases – even cases like Alden, where I think Souter had it wrong – where it was Souter’s opinion that snapped the issues into focus in my mind. He was an incisive questioner at oral argument, and I will miss the clarity he frequently brought to the court’s output.

    Lastly, I must suggest Diane Wood or Kathleen Sullivan as successors. Two legal liberals who match Obama’s general theme without being crazies. I’d prefer he pick Sullivan between the two, but will confess that’s self-interest: I like having her here on the Seventh Circuit and I don’t want him replacing her!

  6. TerenceC Says:

    I think one of the following – Cass Sunstein, Kathleen Sullivan, Diane Pamela Wood, Sonia Sotomayer, Ruben Castillo, Elena Kagan – but what do I know, I just hedge bets.

  7. Simon Says:

    Cass Sunstein isn’t fit to sit on any federal courts – see, for example, his staggeringly disingenuous book “Radicals in Robes.” He is a leading contender, I suppose, if only because most of the other leading contenders are women and it’s not hard to get a read on how Obama feels about that.

  8. Simon Says:

    By the way, here’s Ilya Somin on why the conventional wisdom about Souter’s departure is wrong.

  9. Kevin Says:

    Cass Sunstein immediately vaults to the top of my could be a great choice list then.

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