Justice David H. Souter has announced his retirement, a development that has made Google Reader unbearable today. The other eight Justices issued statements about Souter's announcement. Here's what they said, followed by what they meant.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.:
"Justice Souter has served with great distinction on the Court for nearly 20 years. His desire to return to his native New Hampshire is understandable, but he will be greatly missed in our deliberations."
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens:
As Justice Blackmun accurately stated when Justice White advised us of his proposed retirement from the Court, an announcement of this kind "is an emotional occasion." Because Justice Souter is such a good friend, my first reaction to his decision is one of real personal loss. Because I am confident that I know how his professional work will be judged by future historians, my more important reaction is that the Court will suffer a far greater loss than many now realize. I wish he had postponed the decision that he has just announced.
Translation: "I've seen more retirements than the banquet hall at a seafood restaurant."
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia:
David and I have served on this bench together for almost 20 years -- sitting next to each other at argument for all of that time. I will miss his always intelligent contribution to our work, but most of all I will miss his companionship. The only consolation is that I am sure he will be happy back in his cold and beloved New Hampshire.
Translation: "I'll miss kicking Dave in the shins under the table during oral argument. Also, Dave is an idiot because he likes cold weather."
Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy:
The two months remaining in this term now become all the more precious to us, for we know our splendid colleague Justice David H. Souter will soon leave here for the home and the State to which he longs to return. In our free moments David was one of the best raconteurs, one of the most adept and amusing storytellers, I have ever encountered. In our conferences and deliberations all of us knew we had the guidance of a powerful intellect and a fine, dedicated jurist. The Nation should be grateful always for his integrity and absolute probity, and for his lasting contributions to our law and to the dignity of this Court.
Translation: "I know what 'raconteur' means, but I assume you don't so I'm also calling David a good 'storyteller,' which is what 'raconteur' means. I'm smarter than you are and that's why I, and I alone, get to decide all the hard cases. Say goodbye to the Voting Rights Act."
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas:
I have been privileged to serve on the Court with Justice Souter for almost two decades. It is an honor to have been one of his colleagues at the Court. Though deeply saddened by the departure of a friend and colleague, I am comforted by the knowledge that the bonds of friendship that have been formed during our toils here shall happily remain firm. Virginia and I wish him much happiness and contentment.
Translation: "My wife wrote this."
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
Among jurists with whom I have served, Justice David H. Souter is the very best. His level of preparation for the cases we consider is astonishing. He works so hard at getting it right. He is a genuinely caring man and a model of civility. Never have I heard him utter a harsh or unkind word. I count it my great good fortune to have known him as a working colleague and dear friend.
Translation: "Yeah, that's right. David is better than Sandy. You heard me. But I'm still excited about getting another girl Justice."
Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer:
As a member of this court, Justice Souter has given nineteen years of inspirational service to the Nation. David is a close colleague and a warm personal friend. I shall miss him here. So will we all.
Translation: "It would take me five minutes to tell you where the men's room is. The fact that I summed up my thoughts about Justice Souter in two lines should speak volumes, in a figurative sense, about how I feel about him."
Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito:
I was sad to hear of David Souter's decision to retire from the Court. From my first day on the Court, he has been a wonderful colleague. He has dedicated so many years to exemplary judicial service. We will miss him deeply.
Translation: "I haven't said five words to Justice Souter since I got here and probably couldn't pick him out of a lineup."