By Article III Groupie
Lately there has been a great deal of speculation about possible retirements on the Supreme Court. See, e.g., this nice Slate piece by Dahlia Lithwick. She notes that even though Justice John Paul Stevens is the oldest justice, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the most infirm (due to her battles with cancer), D.C. insiders actually regard Justice David Souter as the most likely to step down. At a panel discussion in Charlottesville last month, Adam Liptak, the New York Times's SCOTUS correspondent, issued this assessment: "If you had to make a guess [about who will leave the Court next], you’d have to guess Souter."
A3G agrees. Especially after she heard this, from one of her tipsters:
Attended oral arguments at SCOTUS [last week] in Gross v. FBL Financial.... I got to hear Carter Phillips call Justice Breyer "Justice Ginsburg" without ever realizing it, which was entertaining. [FN1]
The real interesting part was that on my way out about an hour after argument, I passed Justice Souter standing near the security gate at the side door (near the cafeteria). He was just standing there, apparently waiting for someone. I get outside, and there, walking up the ramp towards the door, is Patrick Leahy, sans entourage.
[Ed. note: Readers of UTR are the kind of people who don't need to be reminded of this, but Senator Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - which plays a central role in handling Supreme Court appointments.]
My assumption (which could be wrong) is that Souter was waiting for Leahy for a lunch meeting or something. Now, maybe they were meeting to discuss New England living, or judicial salaries, but with all the speculation about retiring Supreme Court justices, I can't help but wonder whether they were discussing Souter's career plans.
Indeed. The two men met back in 1990, before Justice Souter's own confirmation hearings.
Of course, it's quite possible that the two men didn't meet. Maybe Justice Souter was waiting for someone other than Senator Leahy, and Senator Leahy was at One First Street on unrelated business. Or maybe they did meet, but for some innocuous, non-retirement-related reason. (Senator Leahy's office did not respond to a request for comment.)
Here is one other juicy tidbit: upon information and belief - if she's wrong, please email A3G and correct her - Justice Souter has not yet hired his law clerks for October Term 2009. Even though Justice Souter typically hires last among the current justices, he's generally done by April. We are now well into April, and there has been no word of Justice Souter hiring clerks - not on Above the Law, nor the Clerkship Notification Blog, nor Wikipedia. Recall that OT 2009 clerks will start up at the Court in July 2009. If he's not planning to retire, shouldn't Justice Souter get a move on, and hire some?
If you have some inside info - about a possible Souter/Leahy meeting (or lack thereof), or clerk hiring by DHS (or lack thereof) - please contact A3G. Toodles!
[FN1] Addresing Justice Breyer as "Justice Ginsburg" - heaven forfend! Carter Phillips is one of the very best Supreme Court litigators - and, more importantly, a member of the Elect (OT 1978 / Burger). As is his daughter, Jessica Phillips (OT 2007 / Alito). Are Supreme Court clerks fallible after all?