That’s the speculation from NPR, but it’s definitely not as big a shakeup as if a conservative justice would have announced. Because even though Souter was appointed by the elder Bush, he has been long considered one of the more liberal Justices.
So far as anyone knows, he is in good health. But he has made clear to friends for some time that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire. Now, according to reliable sources, he has decided to take the plunge and has informed the White House of his decision.
Factors in his decision no doubt include the election of President Obama, who would be more likely to appoint a successor attuned to the principles Souter has followed as a moderate-to-liberal member of the court’s more liberal bloc over the past two decades.
In addition, Souter was apparently satisfied that neither the court’s oldest member, 89-year-old John Paul Stevens, nor its lone woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had cancer surgery over the winter, wanted to retire at the end of this term. Not wanting to cause a second vacancy, Souter apparently had waited to learn his colleagues’ plans before deciding his own.
By the way, Souter is 69 and nowhere near to being the oldest Justice on the bench. And that’s why I hold up his tenure as the model others should follow since he’s been in there roughly 20 years.
Because these lifetime appointments are simply not democratic. Personally, I’m in favor of 16 year appointments and then they retire. Yes, it politicizes appointments, but they’re already politicized and we all realize that. So we might as well know when they’ll be stepping down so voters can add that to their decision making process when stepping into the voting booth.
More as it develops…