Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted May 04, 2009 01:55 pm CDT
Unusual details of Justice David H. Souter’s personal life are beginning to emerge, from the way he eats an apple, core and all, to the way he met New Hampshire’s governor—at his hometown’s town dump, something of a place for socializing.
The Washington Post and the New York Times both published stories focusing on Souter’s personal life after news reports last week that the 69-year-old justice would be retiring and returning to his beloved hometown of Weare, N.H.
The New York Times describes Souter’s farmhouse, with peeling paint and rotting wood, as looking “only slightly more seductive than a mud hut.” The Post, on the other hand, notes five daffodils blooming alongside weeds at the house, a rusty wheelbarrow in the yard and windows “sagging with age.” Souter’s “creaking, unkempt house looks so haunted that some people who passed by said they assumed it had been abandoned,” the Post says.
The Times describes Weare as a town where residents go to a go-kart track for entertainment and socialize at the town dump. Souter is said to have met Gov. John Lynch, who lives in a neighboring town, at the dump.
“Justice Souter’s life here is ascetic but hardly hermitic, people who know him say,” the Times reports. “He visits with his neighbors, goes to church, drops by parties and keeps an office in the federal courthouse in Concord, where friends sometimes join him for lunch.” He also enjoys hiking in the nearby mountains and goes for long walks at night with a flashlight, according to the Post.
He also jogs in Washington, D.C., and got mugged one night in 2004, according to the Post.
Souter never unpacked the belongings he took to his rented apartment in Washington, D.C., 19 years ago when he became a Supreme Court justice, according to the Post. The lifelong bachelor “dislikes schmoozing at cocktail parties” the story says, and jokes about his shyness in public. A disciplined man, he works 12-hour days, and at lunchtime he usually eats only yogurt and an apple, core and all.
Souter may be the court’s most frugal justice, according to the Post. He had only $627,000 in assets when he became a justice, but now is worth between $6 million and $30 million “thanks to a shrewd investment in a New England bank.”
A separate article in the New York Times by former Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse asserts that it’s wrong to view Souter as a misfit or a loner.
“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,” Greenhouse writes. “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.”