Justice David Souter

Justice David Souter joined the U.S. Supreme Court on October 9, 1990, replacing Justice William Brennan. Souter was born on September 17, 1939 in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. However, he grew up in New Hampshire and attended high school there. Souter then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1961, majoring in philosophy. In 1963, he received a degree from Magdalen College at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Souter returned to Harvard for his law degree, which he received in 1966.

Although Souter briefly practiced at a private law firm, he became an Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire two years after graduating from law school. He eventually became New Hampshire Attorney General in 1976. After two years in that role, he became a judge in a New Hampshire state court. In 1983, he was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Souter took the next step in his career as a judge when President George H.W. Bush nominated him for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Senate confirmed him for that seat in April 1990.

Just two months later, on July 25, 1990, Bush nominated Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was relatively unknown at the time, and he lacked a clear record on controversial issues. The Senate confirmed Souter on October 2 in a 90-9 vote, and he took the judicial oath a week later.

Souter was expected to be a staunch conservative when he was appointed, but this prediction proved inaccurate. Almost from the outset, he took a moderate or even left-leaning stance on several key issues. For example, Souter declined to erase the constitutional right to abortion when the opportunity arose. He helped to craft an opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that limited rather than overturning Roe v. Wade. Souter also would have permitted the recount in the 2000 presidential election to continue, contrary to the majority in Bush v. Gore. (Allowing the recount to continue would have preserved the prospects of Democrat candidate Al Gore.)

Staying attached to his New Hampshire roots, Souter frequently returned there for the summers between Supreme Court terms. In April 2009, he told the administration of President Barack Obama that he would retire at the end of that term. This came on June 29, 2009. Souter was replaced by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

For the next several years after his retirement, Souter sat by designation on First Circuit panels. He also donated his papers to the New Hampshire Historical Society, although they will not be available to the public until 50 years after his death. For the most part, though, he has lived a quiet life in New Hampshire since leaving the Court.

Selected Opinions by Justice Souter:

Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding (2009)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The required knowledge component of reasonable suspicion for a school administrator's evidence search is that it raise a moderate chance of finding evidence of wrongdoing.

Rothgery v. Gillespie County (2008)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

A criminal defendant's initial appearance before a magistrate judge, where they learn the charge against them and their liberty is subject to restriction, marks the initiation of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger the attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (2008)

Topic: Labor & Employment

An employer defending a disparate impact claim under the ADEA bears both the burden of production and the burden of persuasion for the “reasonable factors other than age” (RFOA) affirmative defense.

Brendlin v. California (2007)

Topic: Search & Seizure

When police make a traffic stop, a passenger in the car (not only the driver) is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes and thus may challenge the stop's constitutionality.

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures; Antitrust

A plaintiff must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. More specifically, stating a claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made. Asking for plausible grounds to infer an agreement calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of an illegal agreement.

Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp. (2007)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The Clean Air Act does not require the EPA to interpret the term “modification” consistently in its PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) regulations and NSPS (New Source Performance Standards) regulations.

Lopez v. Gonzales (2006)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

Conduct that is a felony under state law but a misdemeanor under the federal Controlled Substances Act is not a felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act for INA purposes.

Georgia v. Randolph (2006)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A physically present co-occupant's stated refusal to permit entry to a residence rendered a warrantless entry and search unreasonable and invalid as to them.

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)

Topic: Religion

When the text of the Ten Commandments is set out, the insistence of the religious message is hard to avoid in the absence of a context plausibly suggesting a message that goes beyond an excuse to promote the religious point of view.

MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. (2005)

Topic: Copyrights

An entity that distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, going beyond mere distribution with knowledge of third-party action, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device's lawful uses.

Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing (2005)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

In determining jurisdiction over federal issues embedded in state law claims between non-diverse parties, the question is whether the state law claim necessarily raises a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities.

KP Permanent Make-Up, Inc. v. Lasting Impression I, Inc. (2004)

Topic: Trademarks

A defendant raising the trademark fair use defense does not have a burden to negate any likelihood that the practice at issue will confuse consumers about the origin of the goods or services affected.

Missouri v. Seibert (2004)

Topic: Miranda Rights

A police officer must not make a conscious decision to withhold Miranda warnings, question first, then give the warnings, and then repeat the question until they get the answer previously given.

U.S. v. Banks (2003)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A 15-to-20-second wait before forcible entry satisfied the Fourth Amendment.

Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran (2002)

Topic: Health Care; Labor & Employment

HMOs may be insurers and thus subject to state regulation of insurers. State laws directed toward the insurance industry are saved from preemption under ERISA's saving clause.

U.S. v. Mead Corp. (2001)

Topic: Government Agencies

Administrative implementation of a statutory provision qualifies for Chevron deference when it appears that Congress delegated authority to the agency generally to make rules carrying the force of law, and the agency interpretation claiming deference was promulgated in the exercise of such authority.

Atwater v. Lago Vista (2001)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment does not forbid a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine.

Pegram v. Herdrich (2000)

Topic: Health Care; Labor & Employment

Mixed treatment and eligibility decisions by health maintenance organization (HMO) physicians are not fiduciary decisions under ERISA.

California Dental Ass'n v. FTC (1999)

Topic: Antitrust

An abbreviated or “quick look” analysis is appropriate when an observer with even a rudimentary understanding of economics could conclude that the arrangements in question have an anti-competitive effect on customers and markets.

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (1998)

Topic: Labor & Employment

An employer is subject to vicarious liability to a victimized employee for an actionable hostile environment created by a supervisor with immediate or successively higher authority over the employee. When no tangible employment action is taken, the employer may raise an affirmative defense if they can show that they exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.

U.S. v. Bestfoods (1998)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

Only when the corporate veil may be pierced may a parent corporation be charged with derivative CERCLA liability for its subsidiary's actions in operating a polluting facility. However, a corporate parent may be held directly liable in its own right as an operator of its subsidiary's facility if it actively participated in and exercised control over the operations of the facility.

Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc. (1996)

Topic: Patents

The construction of a patent, including terms of art within its claim, is exclusively within the province of the court.

Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995)

Topic: LGBTQ+ Rights

A state may not require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message that the organizers do not wish to convey.

New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co. (1995)

Topic: Health Care; Labor & Employment

A law operating as an indirect source of merely economic influence on administrative decisions should not suffice to trigger ERISA preemption.

Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1994)

Topic: Copyrights

The cognizable harm under the fourth factor of the fair use test is market substitution, rather than harm from criticism. A parody is unlikely to act as a substitute for the original work, since the two works usually serve different market functions.

Withrow v. Williams (1993)

Topic: Miranda Rights

The restriction in Stone v. Powell on the exercise of federal habeas jurisdiction does not extend to a state prisoner's claim that their conviction rests on statements obtained in violation of the Miranda safeguards.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)

Topic: Due Process; Abortion & Reproductive Rights

An undue burden exists, and therefore a provision of law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.

Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Darden (1992)

Topic: Labor & Employment

The common-law test for determining who qualifies as an employee under ERISA considers the hiring party's right to control the manner and means by which the product is accomplished. Other factors to consider include the skill required, the source of the instrumentalities and tools, the location of the work, the duration of the relationship between the parties, the extent of the hired party's discretion over when and how long to work, and the method of payment, among others.