WASHINGTON (CNN) - David who? was the initial reaction of Americans to a little-known judge from New Hampshire named in 1990 to sit on the nation's highest court. Even the nominee didn't know what to think when President George H.W. Bush called him with the news, telling supporters, "I was in a state of virtual shock."
David Hackett Souter had only been on a federal appeals court bench for a few months when he was tapped to replace liberal lion William Brennan, a choice many Republicans hoped would move the high court rightward and reshape American law.
"I think that is good news for all of us who are committed to the Constitution of the United States," said President Bush. "He'll be a superb justice for the Supreme Court."
In reality, Souter was in many ways a typical, old-fashioned Yankee Republican - a moderate with an independent, even quirky streak. Whether he became more liberal in his views after joining the Supreme Court, as many conservatives believe, may depend on your politics.
"Justice Souter will never escape the label of having been an enormous disappointment, a traitor to the right," said Thomas Goldstein, a Washington appellate attorney and founder of Scotusblog.com. "It instead created the opportunity to entrench a series of more liberal rulings. So he became the right's greatest failure and we will forever hear the mantra 'No More Souters' from conservatives."
Colleagues dismiss suggestions that liberal colleagues on the bench helped move Souter to the left.
Related: Souter to retire, source says