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David Hackett Souter (/ˈstər/ SOO-tər; born September 17, 1939) is a retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from Octob

David Hackett Souter (/ˈstər/ SOO-tər; born September 17, 1939) is a retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from October 1990 to his retirement in June 2009.[2] Appointed by US President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat that had been vacated by William J. Brennan Jr., Souter sat on both the Rehnquist and the Roberts Courts.

Souter grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and attended Harvard College; Magdalen College, Oxford; and Harvard Law School. After briefly working in private practice, he moved to public service. He served as a prosecutor (1966–1968), in the New Hampshire Attorney General's office (1968–1976), as the Attorney General of New Hampshire (1976–1978), as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire (1978–1983), as an Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court (1983–1990) and briefly as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (1990).[3]

He was nominated for the Supreme Court without a significant "paper trail" but was expected to be a conservative Justice. Within a few years of his appointment, Souter moved towards the center and eventually came to vote reliably with the Court's liberal wing.[3][4]

Following the election of Barack Obama, a Democrat, as US president, Souter was more inclined to leave the Court and to return to New Hampshire. He announced his retirement in mid-2009 and was succeeded by Sonia Sotomayor. Souter continues to hear cases by designation at the circuit court level.

Early life and education

Souter was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on September 17, 1939, the only child of Joseph Alexander Souter (1904–1976) and Helen Adams (Hackett) Souter (1907–1995).[5][6] At age 11, he moved with his family to their farm in Weare, New Hampshire.[5]

Souter graduated second in his class from Harvard College; Magdalen College, Oxford; and Harvard Law School. After briefly working in private practice, he moved to public service. He served as a prosecutor (1966–1968), in the New Hampshire Attorney General's office (1968–1976), as the Attorney General of New Hampshire (1976–1978), as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire (1978–1983), as an Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court (1983–1990) and briefly as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (1990).[3]

He was nominated for the Supreme Court without a significant "paper trail" but was expected to be a conservative Justice. Within a few years of his appointment, Souter moved towards the center and eventually came to vote reliably with the Court's liberal wing.[3][4]

Following the election of Barack Obama, a Democrat, as US president, Souter was more inclined to leave the Court and to return to New Hampshire. He announced his retirement in mid-2009 and was succeeded by Sonia Sotomayor. Souter continues to hear cases by designation at the circuit court level.

Souter was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on September 17, 1939, the only child of Joseph Alexander Souter (1904–1976) and Helen Adams (Hackett) Souter (1907–1995).[5][6] At age 11, he moved with his family to their farm in Weare, New Hampshire.[5]

Souter graduated second in his class from Concord High School in 1957.[7] He then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1961 with an A.B. magna cum laude in philosophy and writing a senior thesis on the legal positivism of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. While at Harvard, Souter was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.[8] He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (later promoted to a Master of Arts degree, as per tradition) from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1963. He then entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1966.

Early career

In 1968, after two years as an associate at the law firm of Orr & Reno in Concord, New Hampshire, Souter realized he disliked private practice[5] and began his career in public service by accepting a position as an Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire. As Assistant Attorney General he prosecuted criminal cases in the courts. In 1971, Warren Rudman, then the Attorney General of New Hampshire, selected Souter to be the Deputy Attorney General. Souter succeeded Rudman as New Hampshire Attorney General in 1976.

In 1978, with the support of his friend Rudman, Souter was named an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire.[5] As a judge on the Superior Court he heard cases in two counties and was noted for his tough sentencing.[5] With four years of trial court experience, S

Souter graduated second in his class from Concord High School in 1957.[7] He then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1961 with an A.B. magna cum laude in philosophy and writing a senior thesis on the legal positivism of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. While at Harvard, Souter was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.[8] He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (later promoted to a Master of Arts degree, as per tradition) from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1963. He then entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1966.

In 1968, after two years as an associate at the law firm of Orr & Reno in Concord, New Hampshire, Souter realized he disliked private practice[5] and began his career in public service by accepting a position as an Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire. As Assistant Attorney General he prosecuted criminal cases in the courts. In 1971, Warren Rudman, then the Attorney General of New Hampshire, selected Souter to be the Deputy Attorney General. Souter succeeded Rudman as New Hampshire Attorney General in 1976.

In 1978, with the support of his friend Rudman, Souter was named an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire.Superior Court of New Hampshire.[5] As a judge on the Superior Court he heard cases in two counties and was noted for his tough sentencing.[5] With four years of trial court experience, Souter was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 1983.[9]

Shortly after George H. W. Bush was sworn in as President, he nominated Souter for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Souter had had seven years of judicial experience at the appellate level, four years at the trial court level, and ten years with the Attorney General's office. He was confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate on April 27, 1990.[10]

President George H. W. Bush originally considered appointing Clarence Thomas to Brennan's seat, but decided that Thomas did not have enough experience as a judge.[11] Warren Rudman, who had since been elected to the U.S. Senate, and former New Hampshire Governor John H. Sununu, then Chief of Staff to President Bush, suggested Souter, and were instrumental in his nomination and confirmation. At the time, few observers outside New Hampshire knew who Souter was,[12] although he had reportedly been on Reagan's short list of nominees for the Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Anthony Kennedy.

Souter was seen as a "stealth justice" whose professional record in the state courts provoked little real controversy and provided a minimal "paper trail"[13] on issues of U.S. Constitutional law. Bush saw the lack of a paper trail as an asset, because one of [13] on issues of U.S. Constitutional law. Bush saw the lack of a paper trail as an asset, because one of President Reagan's nominees, Robert Bork, had been rejected by the Senate partially because of his extensive written opinions on controversial issues.[14] Bush nominated Souter on July 25, 1990, saying that he did not know Souter's stances on abortion, affirmative action, or other issues.[5][15]

Senate confirmation hearings were held beginning on September 13, 1990. The National Organization for Women opposed Souter's nomination and held a rally outside the Senate during his confirmation hearings.[5] The president of NOW, Molly Yard, testified that Souter would "end freedom for women in this country."[16] Souter was also opposed by the NAACP, which urged its 500,000 members to write letters to their senators asking them to oppose the nomination.[17] In Souter's opening statement before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate he summed up the lessons he had learned as a judge of the New Hampshire courts:

The first lesson, simple as it is, is that whatever court we are in, whatever we are doing, whether we are in a trial court or an appellate court, at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected. Some human life is going to be changed in some way by what we do, whether we do it as trial judges or whether we do it as appellate judges, as far removed from the trial arena as it is possible to be. And so we had better use every power of our minds and our hearts and our beings to get those rulings right.[18]

Despite the opposition, Souter won confirmation easily.[18]

Despite the opposition, Souter won confirmation easily.[19] The [19] The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out the nomination by a vote of 14–3, the Senate confirmed the nomination by a vote of 90–9,[20] and Souter took his seat shortly thereafter, on October 9, 1990.

The nine se

The nine senators voting against Souter included Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from Souter's neighboring state of Massachusetts. These senators, along with seven others, painted Souter as a right-winger in the mold of Robert Bork.[21]

Souter opposed having cameras in the Supreme Court during oral arguments because he said questions would be taken out of context by the media and the proceedings would be politicized.[22]

He also served as the court's designated representative to Congress on at least one occasion, testifying before committees of that body about the court's needs for additional funding to refurbish its building and for other projects.[5]

He also served as the court's designated representative to Congress on at least one occasion, testifying before committees of that body about the court's needs for additional funding to refurbish its building and for other projects.[5]

At the time of Souter's appointment, John Sununu assured President Bush and conservatives that Souter would be a "home run" for conservatism.[23] In his testimony before the Senate, he was thought by conservatives to be a strict constructionist on constitutional matters, but he portrayed himself as a moderate who disliked radical change and attached a high importance to precedent.[24][25] In the state attorney general's office and as a state Supreme Court judge, he had never been tested on matters of federal law.[11]

In two 1992 cases, Souter voted with the Court's liberal wing: Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court reaffirmed the essential holding in Roe v. Wade; and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court reaffirmed the essential holding in Roe v. Wade; and Lee v. Weisman, in which Souter voted against allowing prayer at a high school graduation ceremony. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Kennedy considered overturning Roe and upholding all the restrictions at issue in Casey. Souter considered upholding all the restrictions but was uneasy about overturning Roe. After consulting with O'Connor, the three (who came to be known as the "troika") developed a joint opinion that upheld all the restrictions in Casey except the mandatory notification of a husband while asserting the essential holding of Roe, that the Constitution protects the right to an abortion.[26][27]

After the appointment of Clarence Thomas, Souter moved to the middle.[12] By the late 1990s, he began to align himself more with Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although as of 1995, he sided on more occasions with the more liberal[28] justice John Paul Stevens than either Breyer or Ginsburg, both Clinton appointees.[29] O'Connor began to move to the center. On death penalty cases, worker rights cases, criminal rights cases, and other issues, Souter began voting with the Court's liberals. So while appointed by a Republican president and thus expected to be conservative,[30] he came to be considered part of the Court's liberal wing. Because of this, many conservatives view Souter's appointment an error of the Bush presidency. [31] For example, after widespread speculation that President George W. Bush intended to appoint Alberto Gonzales—whose perceived views on affirmative action and abortion drew criticism—to the Court, some conservative Senate staffers popularized the slogan "Gonzales is Spanish for Souter".[32]

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece ten years after Souter's nomination called Souter a "liberal jurist" and said that Rudman took "pride in recounting how he sold Mr. Souter to gullible White House Chief of Staff John Sununu as a confirmable conservative. Then they both sold the judge to President Bush, who wanted above all else to avoid a confirmation battle."[33] Rudman wrote in his memoir that he had "suspected all along" that Souter would not "overturn activist liberal precedents."[5] Sununu later said that he had "a lot of disappointment" in Souter's positions on the court and would have preferred him to be more like Scalia.[5]

In 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Souter wrote that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned because it would be "a surrender to political pressure... So to overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to re-examine a watershed decision would subvert the Court's legitimacy beyond any serious question."[34]

Bush v. Gore

In 2000, Souter voted along with three other justices in Bush v. Gore to allow the presidential election recount to continue while the majority voted to end the recount. The decision allowed the declaration of Bush as the winner of the election in Florida to stand.

Jeffrey Toobin wrote, controversially, of Souter's reaction to Bush v. Gore in his 2007 book The Nine:

Toughened, or coarsened, by their worldly lives, the other dissenters could shrug and move on, but Souter couldn't. His whole life was being a judge. He came from a tradition where the independence of the judiciary was the foundation of the rule of law. And Souter believed Bush v. Gore mocked that tradition. His colleagues' actions were so transparently, so crudely partisan that Souter thought he might not be able to serve with them anymore. Souter seriously considered resigning. For many months, it was not at all clear whether he would remain as a justice. That the Court met in a city he loathed made the decis

In 2000, Souter voted along with three other justices in Bush v. Gore to allow the presidential election recount to continue while the majority voted to end the recount. The decision allowed the declaration of Bush as the winner of the election in Florida to stand.

Jeffrey Toobin wrote, controversially, of Souter's reaction to Bush v. Gore in his 2007 book The

Jeffrey Toobin wrote, controversially, of Souter's reaction to Bush v. Gore in his 2007 book The Nine:

<

Toughened, or coarsened, by their worldly lives, the other dissenters could shrug and move on, but Souter couldn't. His whole life was being a judge. He came from a tradition where the independence of the judiciary was the foundation of the rule of law. And Souter believed Bush v. Gore mocked that tradition. His colleagues' actions were so transparently, so crudely partisan that Souter thought he might not be able to serve with them anymore. Souter seriously considered resigning. For many months, it was not at all clear whether he would remain as a justice. That the Court met in a city he loathed made the decision even harder. At the urging of a handful of close friends, he decided to stay on, but his attitude toward the Court was never the same. There were times when David Souter thought of Bush v. Gore and wept.[35]

The above passage

The above passage was disputed by Souter's longtime friend Warren Rudman. Rudman told the New Hampshire Union Leader that while Souter was discomfited by Bush v. Gore, it was not true that he had broken down into tears over it.[35]

Souter worked well with Sandra Day O'Connor and had a good relationship with both her and her husband during her days on the court.[5] He generally had a good working relationship with every justice, but was particularly fond of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and considered John Paul Stevens to be the "smartest" justice.[5]

International recognition

Even though Souter had never traveled outside the United States during his years with the Supreme Court, he still gained significant recognition abroad. In 1995, a series of articles based on his written opinions and titled "Souter Court" was published by a Moscow legal journal, The Russian Justice. Those were followed by a book, written in Russian and bearing Souter's name in the title.[36] Justice of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation Yury Danilov, reviewing the 2nd edition of the book in a Moscow English-language daily, made the following remark on Souter's position in Bush v. Gore: "In a most critical and delicate situation, David Souter had maintained the independence of his position and in this respect had become a symbol of

Even though Souter had never traveled outside the United States during his years with the Supreme Court, he still gained significant recognition abroad. In 1995, a series of articles based on his written opinions and titled "Souter Court" was published by a Moscow legal journal, The Russian Justice. Those were followed by a book, written in Russian and bearing Souter's name in the title.[36] Justice of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation Yury Danilov, reviewing the 2nd edition of the book in a Moscow English-language daily, made the following remark on Souter's position in Bush v. Gore: "In a most critical and delicate situation, David Souter had maintained the independence of his position and in this respect had become a symbol of the independence of the judiciary."[37][38]

Retirement

Washington, D.C., and return to New Hampshire.[39][40] The election of a Democratic president in 2008 made Souter more inclined to retire, but he did not want to create a situation in which there would be multiple vacancies at once.[41] Souter apparently became satisfied that no other justices planned to retire at the end of the Supreme Court's term in June 2009.[41] As a result, in mid-April 2009 he privately notified the White House of his intent to retire at the conclusion of that term.[42] Souter sent Obama a retirement letter on May 1, effective at the start of the Supreme Court's 2009 summer recess.[43] Later that day Obama made an unscheduled appearance during the daily White House press briefing to announce Souter's retirement.[44] On May 26, 2009, Obama announced his nomination of federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 6.

On June 29, 2009, the last day of the Court's 2008–09 term, Chief Justice Roberts read a letter to Souter that had been signed by all eight of his colleagues as well as retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, thanking him for his service, and Souter read a letter to his colleagues reciprocating their good wishes.[45]

Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy are, as of October 2020, the Supreme Court's only living former justices.

Post-Supreme Court career

As a Supreme Court justice with retired status, Souter remains a judge and is entitled to sit

On June 29, 2009, the last day of the Court's 2008–09 term, Chief Justice Roberts read a letter to Souter that had been signed by all eight of his colleagues as well as retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, thanking him for his service, and Souter read a letter to his colleagues reciprocating their good wishes.[45]

Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy are, as of October 2020, the Supreme Court's only living former justices.

As a Supreme Court justice with retired status, Souter remains a judge and is entitled to sit by designation on lower courts. Since his retirement from the Supreme Court, he regularly sits by designation on panels of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Boston and covering Maine, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and his native New Hampshire, generally in February or March of each year.[46][47]

Personal life

Once named by The Washington Post as one of Washington's 10 Most Eligible Bachelors,[5] Souter has never married, though he was once engaged.[48]

In 2004, Souter was mugged while jogging between his home and the Fort Lesley J. McNair Army Base in Washington, DC. He suffered minor injuries from the event, visiting the Fort Lesley J. McNair Army Base in Washington, DC. He suffered minor injuries from the event, visiting the MedStar Washington Hospital Center for treatment.[49] The issue led to public questioning of the Supreme Court Police's security detail, which was not present at the time.[50]

According to Jeffrey Toobin's 2007 book The Nine, Souter has a decidedly low-tech lifestyle: He writes with a fountain pen, does not use e-mail, and has no cell phone or answering machine. While he was serving on the Supreme Court, he preferred to drive back to New Hampshire for the summer where he enjoyed mountain climbing.[5] Souter has also done his own home repairs[51] and is known for his daily lunch of an apple and yogurt.[52]

Former Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse wrote of Souter: "to focus on his eccentricities—his daily lunch of yogurt and an apple, core and all; the absence of a computer in his personal office—is to miss the essence of a man who in fact is perfectly suited to his job, just not to its trappings. His polite but persistent questioning of lawyers who appear before the court displays his meticulous preparation and his mastery of the case at hand and the cases relevant to it. Far from being out of touch with the modern world, he has simply refused to surrender to it control over aspects of his own life that give him deep contentment: hiking, sailing, time with old friends, reading history."[53]

In early August 2009, Souter moved from his family farm house in Weare to a Cape Cod-style single-floor home in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, a town adjacent to the state capital of Concord. Souter told a disappointed Weare neighbor that the two-story family farmhouse was not structurally sound enough to support the thousands of books he owns and that he wished to live on one level.[54]

Over the years, Souter has served on hospital boards and civic committees.[55][56] He is a former honorary co-chair of the We the People National Advisory Committee.[57]