5 Ways John Paul Stevens Made a Mark on the Supreme Court

Politics| 5 Ways John Paul Stevens Made a Mark on the Supreme Court


Credit Credit Doug Mills/The New York City Times

WASHINGTON– Justice John Paul Stevens, who passed away on Tuesday at 99, served for practically 35 years on the Supreme Court until his retirement in2010 Here are some highlights from that long and eventful run.

Justice Stevens was the last member of the Supreme Court to have actually served in World War II, as a Navy cryptographer, and the experience affected his jurisprudence. Although his ballot record was generally liberal, he dissented from Texas v. Johnson in 1989, which ruled that burning a flag as political protest was protected by the First Amendment. “Sanctioning the general public desecration of the flag will taint its worth,” he composed, “both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to put on the robes of martyrdom by burning it.”

[Justice Stevens was praised after his death for his legal prowess and humble approach.]

In 1976, simply six months after he joined the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens voted to restore capital punishment after a four-year moratorium. With the right treatments, he composed, it was possible to ensure “evenhanded, reasonable and consistent imposition of death sentences under law.” However he receded from that view over the years that followed.

In 2008, two years prior to he retired, he revealed in a concurrence that he now believed the capital punishment to be unconstitutional. In a 2010 essay published in The New York Review of Books after he stepped down, he wrote that workers modifications on the court, coupled with “regrettable judicial activism,” had produced a system of capital punishment that was manipulated towards conviction, distorted by racism, contaminated with politics and tinged with hysteria.

But his qualms, up until now a minimum of, seem to have actually had little effect on the Supreme Court majority’s views on capital punishment.

In Bush v. Gore, the 2000 choice that handed the presidency to George W. Bush: “Although we might never ever know with total certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s governmental election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the country’s self-confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

In Citizens United, the 2010 choice that enabled corporations and labor unions to spend freely in candidate elections: “Essentially, 5 justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they altered the case to provide themselves a chance to alter the law.”

President Gerald R. Ford, who selected Justice Stevens to the Supreme Court, said he had actually sought just something in selecting a candidate: “the finest legal mind I might find.”

Mr. Ford was a Republican and no stranger to fights over judicial politics. Previously in his profession, he had actually led an unsuccessful effort to impeach Justice William O. Douglas for being too liberal, saying he had backed “hippie-yippie-style transformation.”

However even as Justice Stevens emerged as a leading liberal on the Supreme Court, Mr. Ford stayed a fan.

” I am prepared to enable history’s judgment of my term in workplace to rest (if essential, solely) on my nomination 30 years ago of John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Mr. Ford composed in 2005.

When Justice Stevens revealed his dissent in People United in 2010, he sounded weary, stumbling over and mispronouncing ordinary words in the legal representative’s lexicon– corruption, corporation, claims. In some cases he would take a 2nd or 3rd perform at the word, often not.

He later stated he had suffered a mini-stroke and that his performance had convinced him that he had to retire. “I made the choice that day,” he stated in an interview in November.

Some thought he had been too rash. For nearly another decade, he stayed extremely active– composing books, making speeches and continuing to review the court he shaped and liked.

Learn More