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.
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