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David Hackett Souter: Traditional Republican on the Rehnquist Court    by Tinsley E. Yarbrough order for
David Hackett Souter
by Tinsley E. Yarbrough
Order:  USA  Can
Oxford University, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

On October 8, 1990, New Hampshire's David Hackett Souter took the oath of office to the United States Supreme Court. Getting there was a long process, from the initial nomination by President George H. W. Bush (to replace Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.) through the requisite, grueling Senate confirmation hearings (final vote pro 90, con 9). Justice Souter is a graduate of Harvard University, and a Rhodes Scholar. Souter worked as a New Hampshire lawyer in private practice, was appointed as Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General, to the Superior Court, and the Supreme Court.

During his time in New Hampshire courts, Souter's rulings were oft praised and criticized. He had a 'reputation as a tough trial judge, albeit one willing to honor precedents expanding the rights of criminal defendants'. Friend and mentor (one-time NH Attorney General, ex-Senator) Warren Rudman says of Souter, 'he is one of the most analytical people'. His friend, NH attorney Tom Rath, speaks of 'a wicked sense of humor that can skewer the most stuffed shirt ... and a voracious appetite for literature ... stacks of books can make navigating the living room in his house perilous'. One of many praises noted is from a secretary at the NH Supreme Court, Karen Brickner, for his politeness and caring about the law.

Entitling one chapter, 'The U.S. Supreme Court Justice from Nowhere', the author recognized the many who claimed they knew nothing about David Hackett Souter, thereby ranking him 'the stealth candidate'. Souter was assigned other names, beginning with his Concord (NH) High School years, where he was dubbed 'Suitcase Soutie' for his daily use of a briefcase. His frugality, zero debt-standing, sober face and shy demeanor reflect a man who guards his privacy. In an interview by the Boston Globe after Senate confirmation, answering the question of where he placed himself on the judicial spectrum, Souter replied 'closer to the center than some but still on the right side.'

Tinsley E. Yarbrough is thorough in his chronicle of the 105th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, albeit at times a heavyweight in citing court cases, and quoting analysis from others, as well as his own observations. Yarbrough begins with Souter's birth in 1939, Melrose, Massachusetts, following the family's move to Weare, New Hampshire, when Souter was eleven years of age. The author is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at East Carolina University. He is known for his writings of the U.S. Supreme Court, including The Rehnquist Court and the Constitution, and The First Justice Harlan, John Marshall Harlan: Great Dissenter of the Warren Court.

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