Word is that Justice Souter informed the White House in confidence last week that he intended, at the end of the term (i.e., in late June), to announce his retirement and that, contrary to his expectations and wishes, someone at the White House leaked the news. If so, the leaker didn’t do President Obama any favors. Instead of taking advantage of Souter’s courtesy to prepare, away from the glare of public attention, to name his successor as soon as he announced his retirement, the White House now faces a somewhat messier process.
Some folks have suggested to me that the leak somehow locked Souter into retiring. I don’t buy that. He wouldn’t have informed President Obama that he intended to retire if he hadn’t already made a firm decision to do so. (And, for what it’s worth, his public letter last Friday stating his intention to retire doesn’t strike me as a binding letter of resignation—though that proposition raises the thornier issue of when a letter of resignation actually becomes binding).
The leak (if it was contrary to Souter’s wishes) would leave Souter with yet another reason to dislike the ways of Washington.