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Souter retirement gives Obama early Supreme Court pick

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David Hackett Souter was born in Melrose, Mass. He is a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He served in New Hampshire state government as attorney general and was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1983.

Seven years later, he became a federal appeals court judge on the First US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. He served in the job for two months before President George H.W. Bush nominated him to fill the US Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice William Brennan's sudden retirement.

Souter joined the high court on Oct. 9, 1990.

He will be remembered by many conservatives as a high court "stealth candidate" that backfired.

With abortion as a hot political issue, the first Bush administration had sought to avoid a replay of the bitter confirmation hearings surrounding President Reagan's unsuccessful nomination of Robert Bork to the high court. Instead of selecting nominees with well-established public positions on controversial issues, vetting officials at the first Bush White House sought individuals whom they perceived as reliable conservatives but who had no blatant paper trail proving it.

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