WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to retire, after more than 19 years on the court, once the current term ends in late June, NBC News reported Thursday night.

A retirement by Souter, 69, would give President Barack Obama his first chance to nominate a justice and the next few months would bring Senate confirmation hearings. His departure, however, isn’t likely to change the court’s liberal-conservative composition, because his successor will almost certainly be moderate to liberal, NBC News correspondent Pete Williams reported.

At 69, Souter is not the oldest member of the court. He has indicated in the past that he wanted to leave Washington and return to his native New Hampshire. Souter’s early signaling of his intention to step down is almost certainly a move to let the White House get prepared to nominate a replacement, Williams reported.

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