U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Souter Reportedly Plans to Retire


U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter has indicated he plans to retire, NBC News and NPR are reporting tonight.

Souter, 69, is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, an early version of NPR’s story reported. A later version said he “is planning to retire at the end of the current court term.” He has informed the White House of his plans, both networks say.

NBC is reporting it is unclear whether he will retire at the end of the current term or as soon as a nomination can be made.

Souter, who has made it known he doesn’t like Washington, D.C., has told friends he would like to return to his native New Hampshire.

Given Souter’s relatively liberal voting record, it is unlikely an Obama pick would change the ideological makeup of the court. “Most observers expect that he will appoint a woman,” says NPR.

“Speculation about Souter’s plans began to swirl as the eight other justices were known to have hired the four law clerks who will work with them in the Supreme Court term that begins in October. Souter has been the lone holdout, hiring no one,” says the NBC report. “For the last three years, at least, the identities of Souter’s clerks for the upcoming term have been known by now.”

A spokesperson for the court declined to comment to NBC on the retirement report.

Souter was appointed to the court by President George Bush and confirmed by the Senate with a 90-9 vote on Oct. 2, 1990.

Born in Melrose, Mass., on Sept. 17, 1939, Souter graduated from Harvard College. A Rhodes Scholar, Souter received an A.B. in Jurisprudence from Oxford and an M.A. in 1989. He returned to Harvard for his LL.B., then became an associate at Orr and Reno in Concord, N.H.

Souter joined the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office in 1968 and became Attorney General of that state in 1976.

Two years later he became a New Hampshire Superior Court judge. In 1983 Souter ascended to that state’s highest court as an associate justice.

President Bush nominated Souter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where he took his seat on May 25, 1990. He got a quick promotion to the nation’s top court just five months later, when Justice William J. Brennan retired.

In a biography of Souter compiled by Oyez.org, Souter is described as having an engaging personality that explains his friendships on the court. “As one of the few people unoffended by Scalia’s verbal argumentation style, Souter has become a good friend with the conservative justice despite the fact that they often clash on controversial issues,” the bio notes.

“Souter has maintained his simple, bachelor lifestyle. He brings his own lunch, consisting of apples and yogurt, to work every day and lives in an undecorated apartment. He still returns home to Weare [New Hampshire] during the summer breaks where he climbs the local mountains,” says Oyez.

More coverage: Who Will Replace Justice Souter?

The NBC report aired at 10 ET on MSNBC:

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