September 3, 2009
Souter Bans Access to Papers for 50 Years
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter has placed a 50-year ban on public access to his personal and professional papers. In The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, Tony Mauro writes
The unusually severe bar on access is surprising in one sense, but very Souter-esque in another. Souter is an avid historian... He knows well the "call of history," the obligation of historical figures and public officials to help flesh out the how and why of important events.
But Souter is also an intensely private person, especially protective of the Supreme Court on which he served for 19 years. He was a lifelong diarist and may have decided that his files were too sensitive to be made public while any of his colleagues or many of his law clerks are still alive. Other justices have solved similar issues by making some segments of their papers available earlier, others later.
The New Hampshire Historical Society beat out of Library of Congress and Souter's alma mater Harvard College for the archive. Mauro writes that neither LC nor Harvard objected to Souter's 50-year restriction. [JH]