Souter Will Resign

From the NYT:

“Justice David H. Souter has indicated that he plans to retire at the end of the term in June, giving President Obama his first appointment to the Supreme Court, three people informed about the decision said Thursday night.

Justice Souter, who was appointed by a Republican president, George H. W. Bush, but became one of the most reliable members of the court’s liberal wing, has grown increasingly sour on Washington and intends to return to his home state, New Hampshire, according to the people briefed on his plans. His decision was first reported by National Public Radio.

The decision opens the first seat for a Democratic president to fill in 15 years and could prove a test of Mr. Obama’s plans for reshaping the nation’s judiciary. Confirmation battles for the Supreme Court in recent years have proved to be intensely partisan and divisive moments in Washington, but Mr. Obama has more leeway than his predecessors because his party holds such a strong majority in the Senate.

Two friends of Justice Souter, 69, said Thursday night that he had often spoken privately of his intentions to be the court’s first retirement if Mr. Obama won the election last fall. He has told friends that he looked forward to returning to his native New Hampshire while he was still able to enjoy climbing mountains and other outdoor activities.

Replacing Justice Souter with a liberal would not change the basic breakdown on the court, where he and three other justices hold down the left wing against a conservative caucus of four justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate Republican appointee, often provides the swing vote that controls important decisions.”

I’ve always had a soft spot for Justice Souter, who struck me as a sweet, shy guy who would rather have stayed in New Hampshire had he not had a sense of duty. May he have a wonderful retirement, many happy trips up and down mountains, and a long series of glorious New England autumns.