May 1st, 2009
11:11 PM ET

How Justice Souter touched my life

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Lindsay Earls
AC360° Producer

As Justice David Souter prepares to pack his bags and head back to the Granite State, many of us eagerly anticipate President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment. But I am also reflecting upon the impact Justice Souter has had on my life. Reading the news of his retirement last night, I was filled with mixed emotions. As a political junkie, I polled my friends and discussed possible replacements before bed. And as a young woman whose life has been profoundly touched by the Supreme Court, I couldn't help but mourn the departure of another member of my own personal "Fab 4."

While I often find that Mr. Souter and I are on the same sides of issues, my affection for him goes beyond that of a typical court watcher. Justice Souter, along with his colleagues Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, joined my list of Lindsay's Favorite Americans when, on March 19, 2002, they heard a case called Tecumseh Board of Education vs. Earls. This was a case that began when I sued my high school over drug testing. I believed that the drug testing of all students involved in extracurricular activities was an unnecessary invasion of privacy. When I was a freshman at Dartmouth, the Supreme Court took my case. On the day it was argued, I was in the audience as the attorneys and the justices argued the intricacies of drug testing high school students. While not a seasoned court watcher by any measure, I felt that there were a few justices in my corner. Justice Souter was one of those friendly voices.

After sitting through oral arguments and heading back to college, I reread the transcripts of the arguments every day, counting and recounting remarks and questions that seemed favorable. Every equation I could think of counted Justice Souter on my side. When the ruling came down, there were justices who did disappoint me, but Mr. Souter was not among them. Although five Justices agreed that the drug testing of choir girls was acceptable, there were four Justices who still believed, as I do, that young people have the same right to privacy that adults have. Losing my case was quite a blow - it's been almost 10 years and that nerve is still raw. But knowing that I had four of the most noted legal minds of our time on my side has always been a consolation.

By taking my case, Justice Souter and his colleagues have shaped my life in ways that I cannot enumerate. I'll be forever in all of their debt (even those justices who did not make it onto my Top 4 favorite Justices list). Having spent four years in New Hampshire, I can certainly understand why Justice Souter is eager to return to the White Mountains. And as Justice Souter returns to the New England countryside, I wish him the best and hope he realizes how much he will be missed.

Editor's Note: Lindsay Earls is a community organizer in New Orleans.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. okchris

    Excellent blog Lindsay!! Thank you for sharing your story.

    May 4, 2009 at 9:41 am |
  2. Terry, TX

    Good story...Lindsey...However I am glad you lost your case...and I am disappointed Souter voter your way. I actually find law suits like this ...dumb...and that drug testing should never be a problem...if you're clean. Just like you should have passing grades to be extracurricular activities. We have to keep the standards high...and I think you just wasted taxpayers money taking it to the Supreme Court. I think you owe us court costs...what an idea! You lose ...you pay all court costs...hmmm.

    May 4, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  3. lcadwell

    What a unique and memorable experience. Thank you for sharing, LindsaY! I'm glad you had Justice Souter in your corner. He will be missed.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  4. Beth Capen, Esq.

    Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing your reflections. It is often helpful to hear that which underlies our courts' opinions and decisions, especially the personal stories and afterthoughts of those who are directly involved.

    May 2, 2009 at 3:23 am |
  5. BButler

    Great work Lindsey, you and Souter! Yahoo!

    May 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  6. Taufiq Choudhury

    Justice Souter has served this nation well by resisting the Supreme Court's uncontrolled swing to the right – even though nobody could've guessed at the time of his nomination that that's what he'd do. Its a pity he is leaving the bench when he could have continued to be a voice for decency and fairness. But who can disgaree with his dislike for Washington? I too would take the New Hampshire granite over DC concrete anytime!

    I too wish Justice Souter a happy retirement and great time back in New Hampshire.

    May 1, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Souter will be missed. While he leaned to the liberal side on most cases, he could be counted on to stand up for preserving the intent of the original Constitution. Voting to preserve the separation between church and state and voting on women's rights Souter has been a solid caretaker of our constitutional rights in a political environment in which some parts of the conservative mainstream wanted to remove those rights. He will be missed but I hope he enjoys his retirement – he did a good job and deserves a good retirement.

    May 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm |