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High Court Opening When Souter Retires In June

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, May 01, 2009 10:37 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Federal Preemption, Diana Levine, Riegel v Medtronic, Medical Devices, Tort Reform, David Souter, U.S. Supreme Court, FDA and Prescription Drugs

Justice David Souter is leaving the Supreme Court in June. His replacement will be the first high court appointment by President Obama.
Justice David H. Souter 



IMAGE SOURCE:  Justice David H. Souter/ U.S. govt.


President Obama in June will have an opportunity to shape future decisions from the highest court in the land.  Supreme Court Justice David Souter is retiring then. Souter is one of the more liberal leaning justices.

The White House may feel the need to nominate a woman as there is only one, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or a Hispanic, or an African-American. The White House just issued a statement: "The President has not received a formal communication from Justice Souter and he deserves the right to make his own announcement."

Justice Souter was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1990. The Harvard Law School graduate had been a federal judge in Boston and barely settled in when picked for the high court.

Souter, 69, plans to return to his home state of New Hampshire, reports the New York Times. His departure is not entirely a surprise as he had not yet hired law clerks for the fall and has expressed discontent with Washington. 

In his second term in office, President George W. Bush appointed John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito, both conservatives. 

In 1992, Justice Souter was joined by Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens to issue a 5-to-4 vote reaffirming the constitutional right to an abortion. 

Souter was a dissenter in the case of Bush v. Gore in a 5-to-4 decision that ended the 2000 presidential election by declaring George W. Bush was president.

“There is no justification for denying the state the opportunity to try to count all disputed ballots now,” he wrote reports the Times.

Justice Souter voted with the majority in two cases that redefined federal preemption and the notion that federal approval by the FDA guarantees a shield from litigation for medical device and drug makers. 

In February 2008, the high court favored device maker, Medtronic, in a case filed by the widow of Charles Riegel that abruptly halted litigation holding medical device makers accountable for errors.

In March of this year, the high court reaffirmed that consumers still have a legal avenue if a drug maker, in this case Wyeth, fails to properly warn the public on its label, as was the case of Diana Levine.

The Alliance for Justice, a civil justice group in Washington issued a statement, "President Obama now has the opportunity to nominate someone worthy of his own historic legacy.  The president can look to a broad array of legal talent to select a nominee who not only has an excellent record in the law, but also a respect for core constitutional values and a commitment to equal justice for all not just a few."

Some on the short list of replacements might include solicitor general Elena Kagan, and federal appeals court judges, Sonia Sotomayor and Diana Pamela Wood, Kathleen Sullivan of Stanford Law and Judge Kim Wardlaw on the federal appeals court in California, reports the New York Times.

Governor also under consideration include Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Christine Gregoire of Washington or Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.  #

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