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David Souter on Government Reform

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Bush Sr. 1990)

 


Originalism is fine, but it's pulling a rabbit out of a hat

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter both addressed constitutional interpretation recently before law school audiences. While each embraced originalism as one tool in the judicial arsenal, they were also quick to spell out its shortcomings.

"Originalism is fine if you don't expect too much from it," Souter told attendees of his lecture at Harvard Law School, likening the methodology to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Source: Speech at American Constitution Society , Sep 22, 2009

Uphold campaign contribution limits despite free speech

[In 1976, the Court ruled that campaign] contributions could be limited, but expenditures could not. This Buckley v. Valeo decision ushered in efforts devoted to raising money both "hard" (contributions directly to campaigns subject to a $1,000 limit) and "soft" (unlimited contributions to a political party).

In 2000, in Nixon v. Shrink Missouri PAC, a candidate challenged Missouri's law imposing contribution caps, a state statute modeled on Buckley. The Rehnquist Court held fast to Buckley. Justice Souter, speaking for the majority, quoted from Buckley's strong language condemning large donations to candidates: "We spoke in Buckley of the perception of corruption inherent in a regime of large individual financial contributions to candidates. The cynical assumption that large donors call the tune could jeopardize the willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance."

Source: First Among Equals, by Kenneth Starr, p. 82-84 , Oct 10, 2002

Backs federal powers over states’ rights

The nine court members can be divided into three general alliances, but all of the justices have crossed ideological lines. The three conservative justices and two of the swing justices, including Souter, usually support states’ rights.

Souter frustrates conservatives by consistently backing federal powers. He’s a leader of the four-justice minority trying to slow movement to states’ rights.

Source: Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45 , Dec 1, 2000

Other Justices on Government Reform: David Souter on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Jan 15, 2017