Thursday, August 27, 2009

Souter Blocks Access to His Records for a Long Time

Retiring Supreme Court Justices traditionally block access to their papers for a while after leaving the bench. Recently-retired Justice David Souter, however, has elected to block everyone--including historians and media personnel--from accessing his personal records for an extraordinary amount of time: 50 years. From
The unusually severe bar on access is surprising in one sense, but very Souter-esque in another. Souter is an avid historian . . . [and] knows well the "call of history," the obligation of historical figures and public officials to help flesh out the how and why of important events. But Souter is also an intensely private person, especially protective of the Supreme Court on which he served for 19 years. He was a lifelong diarist and may have decided that his files were too sensitive to be made public while any of his colleagues or many of his law clerks are still alive.
Some were not too pleased with the news. Linda Greenhouse, former New York Times reporter and writer of the 2005 book, Becoming Justice Blackmun, reasonably noted that "[t]here must have been a targeted way that Justice Souter could have removed memos or other information that he didn't want to make public, while at the same time not locking away for the next two generations the records of a fascinating period in Supreme Court history."

While I suppose his papers could be inadvertently released from their interim resting place at the New Hampshire Historical Society library in Concord, I gather it's more likely that I must wait until age 73 to read the Justice's thoughts on major cases, his colleagues, and the Court during the Rehnquist/Roberts era.


  1. rather unsurprising given this guy's reclusive nature

  2. Just to tout Greenhouse...Becoming Justice Blackmun is a terrific read. I recommend it to any SCOTUS afficionado.

  3. This strikes me as unfair. The people have a right to information and accountability from the Supreme Court.


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