Friday, May 1, 2009

Justice David Souter

by Dee Newman

After nineteen years Justice David Souter will soon retire from the United States Supreme Court.

When President George H. W. Bush nominated him, David Souter was a virtual unknown.

Most republicans at the time of his appointment believed he would be a staunch conservative determined to overturn Roe v. Wade and to outlaw affirmative action.

Fortunately, he was not the ideologue they had expected.

Prior to his appointment, Justice Souter lived a quiet, contemplative life, alone in an old New Hampshire farmhouse filled with books.

Then as now, he was known for his knowledge and intellect. A Rhodes Scholar, he has always been considered even by his critics to be not just a prodigious reader and serious thinker, but a meticulous and conscientious legal mind.

Justice Souter took the seat that was previously held by one of the “liberal lions” of the Warren Court, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Before Brennan died, the two would form a very close friendship.

Though we may never know how that friendship may have influenced Justice Souter, we do know that Souter did not turn out to be the right-wing zealot the conservatives had hoped he would be. To the contrary, he became a thoughtful, moderate and independent thinker, who made for himself a truly distinguished and surprisingly "liberal" record, defending and championing everything from freedom of speech and religion to racial and gender equality, from affirmative action to the rights of gays and lesbians, not to mention such issues as the abuse of executive power and cruel and unusual punishment.

It is well known that David Souter was very disappointed in his conservative colleagues’ decision in Bush v. Gore, which he called a "tragedy."

President Obama could not go wrong if he appointed another incisive and tenacious thinker like David Souter, someone with an open-mind who is decent, thoughtful, brilliant, caring, and modest, someone who will fight to preserved and protected the fundamental principles upon which our nation was based – life, liberty, equality and justice for all.

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