WASHINGTON (CNN) - Retiring Justice David Souter said goodbye to his U.S. Supreme Court colleagues Monday, telling them in a brief statement he read from the bench that they had "touched me more than I can say."
The 69-year-old justice said he is looking forward to his retirement in New Hampshire, but would retain fond memories of "the finest moments in my life."
The court is now in recess until early September and awaiting the possible confirmation of appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Souter.
Nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Souter announced May 1 that he would step down from the high court after 19 years.
Near the end of the court's public session, Chief Justice John Roberts read a letter from his benchmates to Souter, noting a "profound sense of loss" over his retirement.
"We deeply value the times we have shared in judicial service," said Roberts, who then briefly quoted poet Robert Frost. "We understand your desire to trade white marble for White Mountains [of New Hampshire], and return to your land 'of easy wind and downy flake.' "
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor also signed the letter.
After Roberts spoke, Souter announced, "I too have a statement to read from the bench," in a deadpan voice that brought laughter to the courtroom.
The friendship of his colleagues "has held together despite the pull of the most passionate dissent," he said.
"You quoted the poet, and I will, too, in words that set out the ideal of the life engaged, " ... where love and need are one. ... ," Souter said.
"We have agreed or contend with each other over those things that matter to decent people in a civil society. For nineteen terms, I have lived that life with you, all of us sharing our own best years with one another, working side by side as fellow servants and friends."
His personal remarks brought wide smiles from the other justices, but no tears. The low-key, private Souter had wished for no elaborate ceremony or celebration, preferring the short, eloquent power of words to convey his appreciation.
Souter is expected to depart this week for his home in rural Weare, New Hampshire. He has no specific plans in retirement, but has indicated he may occasionally sit as a senior judge on federal appeals court cases, which the law allows for retired justices.
(CNN) - President Obama shocked the White House Press Corps Friday afternoon when he crashed the daily briefing to announce Justice David Souter's retirement.
The surprise appearance took a little maneuvering and a lot of discipline from administration staff not to leak.
According to administration officials, President Obama was waiting for Justice Souter's letter to arrive to officially notify him of the retirement. But the letter didn't show up in time for Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to announce the news in his afternoon briefing. So Gibbs, after delaying the briefing for about 30 minutes, began his afternoon exchange with reporters anyway. He said he had no official confirmation that any Supreme Court Justice intended to step down. Then he went on to take reporters’ questions.
Souter, in a brief letter to the president, said "When the Supreme Court rises for the summer recess this year, I intend to retire from active service as a justice." The current term is expected to end in late June.
President Barack Obama - breaking into the daily White House news briefing - thanked Souter for his service and said he will choose as his replacement someone who understands "the realities" people go through every day, and someone who understands "the rule of law."
The president said he also will seek someone with a "sharp, independent mind" who has integrity and strives for excellence.
He described Souter as "not only a good judge, but a good person," adding, "I'm incredibly grateful for his good service."
"I wish him safe travels on his journey home and on the road ahead," the president said.
(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on President Obama Friday to choose a Supreme Court nominee who is "able to fulfill the judicial oath of applying the law without prejudice, and not decide cases based on their feelings or personal politics."
“I thank Justice Souter for his service and wish him well in his future endeavors once he leaves the Supreme Court.“I trust the President will choose a nominee for the upcoming vacancy based on their experience and even-handed reading of the law, and not their partisan leanings or ability to pass litmus tests. A Supreme Court nominee needs to be able to fulfill the judicial oath of applying the law without prejudice, and not decide cases based on their feelings or personal politics.
“Once there is a nominee, I will work to ensure that their record is thoroughly reviewed and that there is a full and fair debate.”
(CNN) - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, hailed David Souter as a "gifted jurist" and a "first-rate legal mind" Friday in an issued statement:
“Justice Souter has served the Nation with distinction for nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. I have admired his commitment to justice, his admiration for the law, and his understanding of the impact of the Court’s decisions on the daily lives of ordinary Americans. Throughout his career, he has been committed to the law and not to ideology. New Englanders treasure our strong sense of independence, and Justice Souter fits the independent Yankee mold. He has a first-rate legal mind. I have known him to be an honest and tireless person who has given years of his life in service to this country.
“Of course, we have all known that his deep love for New Hampshire would take him away from the Court some day. Nonetheless, I am sad to see a gifted jurist, a dedicated public servant and a decent man leave the bench. We have long been neighbors in New England, and I look forward to seeing him at home.
“Now more than ever, while the country is in the throes of an economic recession, and fighting to strengthen our economic and national security, Americans are looking to Washington for leadership and cooperation. I know that as President Obama selects a nominee to replace Justice Souter, he will continue to consult with Senators from both sides of the aisle as he has this year with so many nominations. In exercising their important roles in the confirmation of the next Supreme Court Justice, I hope that all Senators will take this opportunity to unify around the shared constitutional values that will define Justice Souter’s legacy on the Court.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Justice David Souter announced he will retire from the Supreme Court, after informing the White House Friday of his plans.
May 1, 2009
Dear Mr. President:
When the Supreme Court rises for the summer recess this year, I intend to retire from active service as a Justice, under provisions of 28 US.C section 371 (b) (1), having attained the age and met the service requirements of subsection (c) of that section. I mean to continue to render substantial judicial service as an Associate Justice.
s/ David Souter
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
WASHINGTON (CNN) - There are few issues that rally conservatives as much as a Supreme Court nomination - and activists are wasting no time gearing up for a battle.
Conservative groups worked into the night Thursday after news broke of Justice David Souter’s retirement to arrange a conference call early Friday morning to talk strategy with representatives of more than 60 groups.
Leaders on the call, such as Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, told colleagues that one of their first challenges is convincing activists there is a fight to be had.
"One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn't really matter - Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It's a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”
Curt Levy, also of the Judicial Confirmation Network, argued to the nearly 200 activists on the conference call that this can "be a winning issue" for conservatives if they focus on what he called the "right issues" such as same sex marriage, death penalty and the Second Amendment - issues that can split Democrats.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to inform his colleagues Friday of his intention to retire from the bench, a legal source said.
Souter is expected to discuss his decision during a weekly closed-door meeting.
Souter wanted to notify his associates in private before making a public announcement, the source said.
There was no immediate indication of when Souter officially would inform the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - NARAL Pro-Choice America has issued a statement in reaction to reports that Supreme Court Justice David Souter will soon announce his intention to retire from the nation's highest court.
(full text of statement after the jump)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A source close to Supreme Court Justice David Souter has confirmed to CNN he plans to retire from the court after the term recesses in late June. A court spokesperson said tonight the justice would have no comment on the report.