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Souter Bids a Fond Farewell


Then-New Hampshire Attorney General David Souter is seen in this undated photo in Concord, N.H. (Ken Williams/Concord Monitor)

By Robert Barnes
PHILADELPHIA -- Justice David H. Souter bade a sentimental goodbye today to the assembled judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, telling them that a jurist's satisfaction comes "not in the great moments, but in being part of the great stream."

Souter told the group he did not mean for his annual address to the circuit, which he oversees on the court, to be a valedictory. "I swear to you I was not the leak," he said about last week's unplanned announcement that he would be stepping down from the court at the end of the current term. "But I admit I'm glad the leak gives me the chance to say some of the things on my mind."

What he had in mind was not a discourse on the court or his possible replacement. Instead, he gave a philosophical view of the importance of the law, and frequently quoted others, such as the late federal judge Richard Arnold, talking about the importance of the judiciary: "There has to be a safe place, and we have to be it."

Souter said the value of judges does not come from the "error-free trial, the perfect decision" or the opinion so good it "should get in the case books by next year." Those things "sink in the stream pretty quickly." Instead, he said, it comes from being part of the continuing process and being "members of a great guild."

"The law replenishes its people as it replenishes its cases," he said.

The 15-minute speech showed Souter's aversion to the spotlight. He barred television cameras and photographers from the event, and required reporters to leave their tape recorders outside the ballroom of the hotel. Souter has not planned a news conference for when he leaves the court, and did not answer questions.

But The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported that Souter attended an Oxford University alumni luncheon at the Willard Hotel on a Saturday, along with Justice Stephen Breyer. Ambinder said Souter told him he "probably" would have retired had John McCain been elected.

"I'm going to be seventy soon. I've watched other justices wait until their eighties to retire, and by that time they have nothing left to retire to. I didn't want that to be me."

He told a questioner at the Saturday event that there's no good hiking south of Massachusetts and described a dream he's had every day since deciding to retire: He is standing atop New Hampshire's highest peak, above the treeline, looking down a path that winds away into the distance.

Souter seemed sentimental at today's event as well, telling the group that he called the justice he replaced, William Brennan, before giving his first speech to the 3rd Circuit 19 years ago. He asked if Brennan had a message for the group.

"'Just give them my love, David,'" Souter recalled, and began to choke up. "It's going on 20 years since Justice Brennan said, 'Just give them my love,' but that goes for me, too."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 5, 2009; 3:43 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Supreme Court  
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Comments

Good for you, Justice Souter. I cannot understand anyone who would not want to retire when they are eligible. New England is a beautiful place and he can now enjoy it full time. Most of us have things we would like to do "when we have more time."

Posted by: Skye1er | May 6, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE HIGH COURT ANYMORE...

...WHEN THE RULE OF LAW IS BEING SUBVERTED AT THE GRASSROOTS?


• The case of "The People vs. the Extrajudicial Justice Network" must be fought "on the ground..."

...by Congress, local officials, the largely unaware mainstream media...

...and by the good people on the inside of "enabling" federal agencies whose officials have constructed a "bypass" of the judicial system and the rule of law.


http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

http://nowpublic.com/world/bush-torture-memos-oked-radiation-weapon-use-americans-too

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | May 6, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

A couple of thoughts:

I wish retiring Justice Souter the best in his retirement and salute him for his honorable service to our nation. I hope his hikes and time post-career are wonderful and meaningful.

Unrelated:

You see lots of Republican conservatives on TV trashing around trying to figure out why America has rejected it. Indeed only 21% of Americans identify themselves as members of the GOP and Republican approval ratings are also in the 20s.

Put another way, more people believe in UFOs (about 33%) than identify themselves as, or approve of, the Republican party.

That's a party on the rocks. But why?

It's not "branding" or messaging (as a traveling team of GOP congressional leaders asserts). It's not that Republicans have been "acting and spending like Democrats".

It's reflected in the posts on this thread by VirginiaConservative and Bcamp55. Republican conservatives are increasingly vitriolic and mean-spirited. Their attitude repels moderate Americans and no party can rule without moderates behind them.

When the voices of the GOP are the Rush Limbaughs, the Michele Bachmanns, etc - middle America listens to the tripe, the "issues" that GOP talk radio and those here on the internets worry about and tune them out.

In an era where middle America is worrying about health care, the economy, paying for college for their kids, etc, the GOP has:

-- Obama and the TelePrompter.
-- Obama and his Hawaii birth certificate.
-- Teabagging (don't pay attention to the fact that 95% of teabaggers had their taxes reduced by Obama).
-- Calling opponents "socialist" and "facist" at the same time (quite a feat).

The world is complex and there are lots of things which need adult attention. So long as conservative Republicans act like out-of-control teenagers trying to rule a clique, they'll be banished to the wilderness.

Posted by: Hawaiiexpat | May 6, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm from Virginia, but I lived in NH for several years and know the kind of stock Souter is. God bless him. There's a real conservative. Wish there were more of them.

Until conservatives start putting Burke ahead of Limbaugh, they deserve no respect. In the meantime, we're proud if you consider real conservatives like Souter to be Democrats. If you don't want them, we do. Indeed.

Posted by: nodebris | May 5, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Modern "conservatives" are their own worst enemies. Thanks, Virginia Conservative, for giving conservatives a bad name. You're welcome to do so. But stop tainting my state with your vileness. You shame us with your pathetic invective. As a Virginian, native, I deny and reject you. Leave Virginia out of your rants, dog. You don't represent anything here.

Posted by: nodebris | May 5, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

For someone who so readily accuses other Americans of being “America hating, baby killing, gun hating liberals”, VirginiaConservative certainly sounds full of hatred, venom and bitterness. Goodness knows why, Bush managed to appoint enough types from the ‘Liberal hating, war loving, violence loving, greedy, barbaric, antiquated” Republicans to keep her happy for decades.

Posted by: francinelast | May 5, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

VirginiaConservative wrote:

Thank you, Justice Souter, for waiting until your replacement would be another aclu card carrying, America hating, baby killing, gun hating liberal.

You claim to hate Washington and had no intention to be led out, drooling, as did so many of your colleagues. So why didn't you punch your ticket in 2007?

The right wing of American politics trusted you with a job and pension for life.

In return, you voted as a butt nugget liberal and capped it off like this.

Maybe there is room in your austere New England Quarters for your good friend and fellow liberal, Ruthie, to come and stay after she checks out. I am sure you have lots to yuck it up over a nice cup of screw America.

_____________________________

What a loathsome comment!!! And I don't think so because I am some "America-hating" liberal. I happen to be a centrist, which means that I DO sometimes disagree with those on the left and sometimes with those on the right. But you, VirginiaConservative, and your intolerant wingnut fellow travelers are the ones screwing America. Fortunately, your hateful attitudes have been soundly rejected by a large majority of Americans, including THOUGHTFUL conservatives who do deserve to be heard. Souter will no doubt enjoy his retirement. You and those like you, however, have been deservedly exiled to the wilderness. I don't care whether you like it there or not. Perhaps it could be the opportunity for some real thought for a change. Or perhaps you can gaze into the mirror and contemplate the face of irrelevance.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | May 5, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I would like to ask Virginaconservative to support his/her argument that all liberals are "america haters." And furthermore, to provide evidence that Souter falls into this category.

Posted by: Marylander5720 | May 5, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I love the picture: he looks like Mona Lisa, mysterious smile and all. Souter oozes integrity. He's my idol. Happiest of trails, hiking and otherwise, to you sir, and job well done!

Posted by: aguy7 | May 5, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Justice Souter did it his way. Now we have Thomas who see's dead people, Scalia who is way out there, Roberts looking for himself, Alito still sending out thank you letters for getting the job he's not qualified for and Ginsbury waiting for a female replacement. Breyer is much like Souter. My choice for replacement is Carol Lam.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | May 5, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

What a Man!

Justice Souter may I borrow and repeat what Justice David H. Souter says above " May The Force Be With You!" Unwards and Upwards!
http://manchestersquare.blogspot.com

Posted by: Victoria5 | May 5, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Justice Souter, for waiting until your replacement would be another aclu card carrying, America hating, baby killing, gun hating liberal.

You claim to hate Washington and had no intention to be led out, drooling, as did so many of your colleagues. So why didn't you punch your ticket in 2007?

The right wing of American politics trusted you with a job and pension for life.

In return, you voted as a butt nugget liberal and capped it off like this.

Maybe there is room in your austere New England Quarters for your good friend and fellow liberal, Ruthie, to come and stay after she checks out. I am sure you have lots to yuck it up over a nice cup of screw America.

Posted by: VirginiaConservative | May 5, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't know which speaks more to this scum bags legacy-

1) His support, along with the bottom dwelling, ex ACLU POS Ginsburg, for the right of child porn web sites to advertise.

2) His position on an imminent domain claim that cost an 80 year old woman the house she was born is just so a mall could be developed to generate more taxes.

This pig has the scruples of a pimp and the character of a $2 hooker addicted to crack.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | May 5, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Washington is suddenly a city totally devoid of common sense and true centrists as this inestimable jurist takes his leave.

May your days on the NH trails, sir, be long and peaceful and may the days of this city's shameful and destructive vacillations between the looney left and radical right be quickly ended in 2010.

Posted by: jayjay9 | May 5, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Hatch is truly making things up. Obama with a pick by the ed of the week? Preposterous...

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | May 5, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

There is a place where we as citizens feel secure, protected and in peace: It is in the decisions and philosophy of the Supreme Court Justices it is the diverse and some times contradictory points of views from each individual Justice that creates the harmony and balance of our great Democracy, that create a little peace of mind in each of us... This perfect balance bring us all, the citizens of this great country, to love above our self; The United State of America. Thank you Justice David H. Souter, thank you sir for your service.

Posted by: lperez1 | May 5, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"I've watched other justices wait until their eighties to retire, and by that time they have nothing left to retire to. I didn't want that to be me." Justice Souter, I respect that.

Posted by: yesi | May 5, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your service on the court. I don't blame you one bit for wanting a real life in NH away from back-stabbing Washington.

Posted by: gce1356 | May 5, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow, he really missed everything good about this area. No good hiking south of Massachusetts? How about Shenandoah National Park (which includes a segment of the Appalachian Trail)? George Washington National Forest? I could add others. Many others.

Posted by: pirate1 | May 5, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

May The Force Be With You-
Justice David H. Souter !!!!

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 5, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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