Souter wraps up 19-year career on Supreme Court

Justice David Souter's 19-year career on the Supreme Court ended Monday as the high court ended its term.

Souter announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down to return to his native New Hampshire. In the court on Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts read a letter thanking Souter for his service to the court.

Roberts, reading from the letter signed by all the court’s members, said, “We all felt a profound sense of loss since that announcement of your decision to retire. For nearly 20 years, the court has had the benefit of your wisdom, civility and dedication to the cause of justice.”

He added, “We deeply value the times we have shared in judicial service. We understand your desire to trade white marble for White Mountains, and return to your land ‘of easy wind and downy flake.’”

With an uncharacteristic shakiness in his voice, Souter read a letter thanking his fellow justices.

“Your generous letter has touched me more than I can say,” Souter said. “For 19 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 as friends.

“I will not sit with you at our bench again after the court rises for the summer this time, but neither will I retire from our friendship, which has held us together despite the pull of our most passionate dissent. It has made the work lighter through all of my tenure here, and for as long as I live I will be thankful for it.”

Souter's decision to step aside is not a complete surprise. It is well known that Souter disliked Washington and often returned to his home in New Hampshire.

Souter was appointed to the court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, recommended by John Sununu, then-governor of New Hampshire. Sununu told Bush that Souter’s confirmation was a “home run” for conservatism on the court. History proved Sununu wrong, as today Souter is regarded as one of the high court’s strongest liberal voices.

Souter had been an associate justice on the New Hampshire Superior Court for only two months when he was picked.