When President George H.W. Bush tapped an unknown New Hampshire federal appeals court judge for a seat on the Supreme Court in July of 1990, some conservatives were nervous.
David H. Souter had been sitting on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for just a few months and had a very slim record. But there was no reason to worry, insisted White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.
"This is a home run," Sununu, a fellow New Hampshire resident, assured the wary right wing. "And the ball is still ascending. In fact, it's just about to leave Earth orbit."
The ball may have left Earth orbit, but it definitely ended up in a place that did not please the far right.
Souter was duly confirmed and almost immediately aligned himself with the court's more liberal faction. Studious and thoughtful, the justice became known, among other things, for his strong intellectual defense of church-state separation.
After serving nearly 19 years on the high court, Souter announced last month that he plans to retire and return to his family farm in New Hampshire. The intensely private, 69-year-old justice was reportedly unhappy living in Washington and eager to get back to his rural roots.
The announcement was something of a surprise. Although rumors …