Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DAVID HACKETT SOUTER ~ September 17, 1939

David Hackett Souter (born September 17, 1939) served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1990 until his retirement from the Court on June 29, 2009. He filled the seat vacated by William J. Brennan, Jr.

Appointed by Republican President George H. W. Bush, Souter served on both the Rehnquist and current Roberts courts, and was often considered a member of the court's traditional liberal wing.

At the time of Souter's appointment, John Sununu assured President Bush and conservatives that Souter would be a "home run" for conservatism. In his testimony before the Senate, Souter espoused the concepts of originalism (as Bork had done) and was thus thought by conservatives to be a strict constructionist on constitutional matters. However, in the state attorney general's office and as a state Supreme Court judge, he had never been tested on matters of federal law.

Initially, from 1990 to 1993, Souter tended to be a conservative-leaning justice, although not as conservative as Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas or William Rehnquist. In Souter's first year, Souter and Scalia voted alike close to 85 percent of the time; Souter voted with Kennedy and O'Connor about 97 percent of the time. The symbolic turning point came in two cases in 1992, 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, Anthony Kennedy considered overturning Roe and upholding all the restrictions at issue in Casey. Souter considered upholding all the restrictions but still was uneasy about overturning Roe. After consulting with O'Connor, however, the three (who came to be known as the "troika") developed a joint opinion that upheld all the restrictions in the Casey case except for the mandatory notification of a husband while asserting the essential holding of Roe, that a right to an abortion is protected by the Constitution.

After the appointment of Clarence Thomas, Souter moved to the middle. By the late 1990s, Souter began to align himself more with Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on rulings, although as of 1995, he sided on more occasions with the more liberal justice, John Paul Stevens, than either Breyer or Ginsburg, both Clinton appointees. O'Connor began to move to the center. On the abortion issue, Souter began to vote to override restrictions he believed in back in 1992. On death penalty cases, worker rights cases, criminal rights cases, and other issues, Souter began voting with the liberals in the court. So while appointed by a Republican president and thus expected to be conservative, Souter came to be considered part of the liberal wing of the court. Because of this, many conservatives view the Souter appointment as a major error on the part of the Bush administration and have gone on to intensely scrutinize future potential Republican appointees on the standard of whether they would be reliable conservatives.

In April 2009, Souter announced that he would be retiring at the end of the current Supreme Court term in June. On May 26, 2009, President Obama announced that he was nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the Court. Sotomayor was confirmed by by a 61 to 31 vote in the Senate on August 6, 2009.

Image & text:wikipedia.com

Today is also the birthday of my first cousin Claora Styron. Clae grew up in Lincoln, Mass.-- not far from David Souter's New Hampshire-- and now lives just a few blocks from me in the Mission District of San Francisco.

And appropriately-- considering Justice Souter's birthday -- it is the 226th Anniversary of the United States Constitution.

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