So it’s Justice David Souter, one of the youngest members on the Court. Who knew?

Well…

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.

Though don’t forget…

Souter was a Republican appointed by President George
H.W. Bush in 1990, largely on the recommendation of New Hampshire’s
former Gov. John Sununu, who had become the first President Bush’s
chief of staff….

Once appointed and confirmed, he soon became a “surprise justice.”
He bucked the expectation that he would join the court’s conservative
wing — then led by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was appointed
to the court by President Nixon and elevated to Chief Justice by
President Reagan — and featuring Reagan appointees Antonin Scalia and
Anthony Kennedy.

The appointing president had been assured of Souter’s credentials by
the White House chief of staff, John Sununu, who had known Souter as a
conservative member of the New Hampshire Supreme Court when Sununu was
that state’s Republican governor.

But when confronted by the ideological debates and partisan
landscape of Washington, Souter surprised both Sununu and Bush by
aligning himself with the court’s more moderate wing. Later on, Souter
became a full-fledged member of the court’s unabashedly liberal caucus,
featuring another Republican, John Paul Stevens (appointed by President
Ford in 1975) and Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor. Stevens remains
a member of the court to this day.

His successor will sail through the confirmation process. And…

Barack Obama will have an early opportunity to move the Court to the left–even farther left than Souter, that is.

At one time I would have expected Obama to exercise caution with his
first Court appointment, but nothing we’ve seen in the last three
months justifies that expectation. If Obama goes hard left, we could be
in for the most interesting Congressional action of his young
administration.

And that’s saying something, after the barnstorming late night
urgent sessions demanding approval of a 1100+ page ’stimulus package’
laden with staggering pork projects, to spend out way out of debt…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....