Souter was appointed because they thought he'd do what he was told, like a Chicago alderman. As it happens, Justices serve for life and they don't have to do what they're told (this is not an accident). When you choose somebody for his weak will, you get what you pay for.

Then again, I'm tempted to note that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is praised for her "independent thinking" in departing from her party line, while poor Souter is "haphazard" for doing the same. Maybe Souter is a responsible adult with a conscience, who is well-informed about the law, and who makes up his own mind. I wouldn't put it past George Bush to have been so confused that he appointed an honest man by accident. Stranger things have happened, even in Washington. If there were exactly one acceptable interpretation of the Constitution, and if it were glaringly obvious to anybody just what that interpretation was, why would we have nine1 of these characters?

I'd rather think they're both space aliens sent here by inconceivably ancient forces of ultimate evil, but I'll take what I can get.

1 That "nine" there used to be "twelve", until discofever graciously asked me what the hell I was thinking. The best excuse I could come up with was that "12" is nine in base seven, but that's pretty damn lame so I just fixed it.
Saying that Souter has a weak will isn't exactly fair. You might as well call him for what he is—a (gasp!) liberal, who favors federal supremacy and judicial activism and all the things that conservatives like George Bush despise. In that respect, he really was a terrible decision on the part of Bush, although Clarence Thomas more than made up for it.

That said, based on what I've heard, Souter is the most colorful figure on the Supreme Court by far. He drives a Volkswagen Rabbit to work. In fact, he once had a breakdown on Interstate 95 while on the way to New England, and a pair of Supreme Court police officers had to rush up the freeway from the District to give him a ride.

One guy I met, who worked in the Supreme Court for several years as an audio engineer and coffee boy, had tons of stories about Souter. Whereas Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer kept their doors closed, and Sandra Day O'Connor spent most of her time screaming at people, Souter was infinitely more free-spirited. He would leave his office open so anyone could walk in, and his law clerks would just sort of hang around the books like bored college students.

While you might take this to mean he doesn't give a damn about his job, nothing could be farther from the truth. Out of the Supreme Court's four left-wing justices, Souter is perhaps the most outspoken and active: John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer don't do all that much, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg rarely tries to rally the progressive troops together. Souter wrote the dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore and reportedly tried to get Anthony Kennedy to vote in favor of Gore. Even though Dave's probably puffing the magic dragon once in a while, he's an excellent lawyer and politician, and if you happen to believe in the Democratic Party, he's also an excellent judge.

Of course, if you follow George W. Bush, Mr. Souter is Satan incarnate and deserves to be crucified upside down and naked in a vat of boiling oil alongside Pantload Clinton. But it's all a matter of opinion.

Some of my favorite Souter moments

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