John Paul Stevens remembered as ‘judge of the judges’ original approach to law

nearvideo former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens dies

Former employees of the Supreme court, dies at the age of 99.

“Self-employed” might best describe the life and court of nominated judicial career of justice John Paul Stevens, sitting by a Republican President, on the Supreme court, but who has staked his three-plus-decades on the Bank’s generally liberal views on law and the Constitution.

Stevens died on Tuesday in Florida, after a short illness. He was 99, and earlier this year published a memoir of his years on the bench.

The oldest member of the court of justice, before he retired in 2010, Stevens had a difficult justice-vortex, almost from the day he was nominated for the first time, 35 years earlier.

“He’s not someone who said, historically a champion of either political camp saw,” Eduardo Peñalver, a former Stevens law clerk. “He was a modest man, despite his position and stature, was the ease with which all types of people and bring them together.”


On the bench, Stevens remembers, except for one case, only what is presented to it, which refuses to issue sweeping statements about judicial philosophy. This minimalist approach has brought him both praise and criticism, but colleagues say that he never wavered. “It is not our job to apply laws that have not yet been written,” he once said.

“Stevens was probably one of the least-known judge in public, and it is ironic, because he had such a big impact of the Supreme Court on American society, such as justice,” said Clifford Sloan, in 1985, a law clerk and now a private attorney. “But his kindness and his humble nature should not be mistaken for any kind of softness. He has the sharpest mind I’ve ever experienced.”

John Paul Stevens grew up in Chicago, and was raised literally in a hotel. Built by his father, Ernest, and promoted as the largest and most beautiful of its kind, the Stevens Hotel was a product of the roaring twenties, the ostentatious optimism and unlimited possibilities. A photo of the Chicago Daily News, shortly after the Stevens in 1927, opened, shows a giggling young John and two of his brothers in a hotel, game room, dressed uncomfortably in a suit and tie, working a puzzle.

“I am very proud of the Stevens Hotel,” he once said. “It’s one of my father’s contributions to the city.”


The Jazz age splendor came to an end with the Great Depression, and the fortunes of the brand new Stevens Hotel. It went bankrupt in 1934, and things soon get worse for the Stevens family. John’s father, grandfather and uncle were indicted, the accused of by the state, illegally embezzling money from the family insurance, the payments on the building. Ernest Stevens was convicted, but it was later overturned on appeal.

John moved on with his life, rarely speaking publicly about the bankruptcy. He attended the University of Chicago, where he was stuck in, as a rule, of moderate views, what was then a very liberal campus.

Later, he became an intelligence officer in the second world war, earning a Bronze Star. At the end of the war, after his brother’s advice, Stevens enrolled in the faculty of law at Northwestern University.

Was “the time I was trying to decide what to do, and it seemed like a reasonable,” Stevens told me in 2009, with his characteristic Midwestern modesty.

His stellar academic performance, which earned him a prestigious BGH clerkship for justice Wiley Rutledge in 1947-48. After that, Stevens was in comfortable, familiar surroundings as a private lawyer in Chicago, specializing in antitrust law.


Stevens’ judicial career began in 1970, when President Richard Nixon appointed him to the Federal appeals court in Chicago. He earned a reputation as a judge to cases of a pragmatic eye, without rigid ideology. He was a registered Republican, but never active in local or national policy.

“One of the things that was said about him, he was a “judge of the judges,” said Peñalver. “At a time when both parties jockey to nominate more to the right — to the judge, you see, as the transformation of the law, and embraces quite strong ideological positions. Judge Stevens was the opposite, that someone who was very skeptical, to be the judge of this style.”

That reputation for balanced case law, and the “clean” reputation was exactly what President Ford was looking for in 1975, when justice William Douglas retired after a debilitating stroke.


The Watergate scandal had a nation angry and divided. Ford hoped that a moderate, non-political judge the public’s confidence in the government would inspire greater. The reaction of the public was one of the first confusion, as the press and experts are struggling to categorize Stevens. An ideologically-conservative? A doctrinally-liberal? A “centrist” seemed to fit.

“When people see the Supreme court, you try the people in the groups– liberal or conservative,” said Sloan. “Justice Stevens, from his first day on the Supreme Court, has defied labels. He approached the cases on his own terms, and he often original ways of approaching cases, and the questions so by the day.”


Stevens’ first few years on the high court found him in agreement with many other conservatives. In his first year, he wrote opinions that the death penalty again, after a four-year moratorium.

These important decisions, however, led to new legal standards, compliance with the so-called “discretionary” guidelines for juries when deciding life or death-such as mitigating or aggravating factors in a separate sentencing phase of the study. And the court threw the “mandatory” death sentences for certain crimes, such as murder or rape, the ignoring of aspects of the offence, which may be in favor of the defendant.

Another early opinion of Stevens, brought him to immediate public view. In FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), the judge upheld the government’s authority to regulate “indecent” speech, which Stevens famously defined as any depiction or description of “sexual or excretory activities or organs” in a way, the “patently offensive measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.”

The offending speech was an infamous monologue by comedian George Carlin, who spoke about the social taboo surrounding “seven dirty words”. But Stevens instead steered clear of a philosophical discourse on the First Amendment, the choice of what judge Stevens brand, the practical effect of the court. His justification for suppressing “dirty” speech: protecting young children may be watching or listening.


In later years however, Stevens, the court took them away from the restrictive government censorship daring speech or content. At the beginning of 1997, he was the driving force of the crushing of several attempts by Congress to protect children from pornography on the Internet, saying it violated the right to freedom of expression of adults.

Other cases, in Stevens’ early years reflected his conservative roots: maintaining Federal funding restrictions for abortions, and the limitation of affirmative action programs.

But with the elevation of William Rehnquist to chief justice in 1986, and the addition of more conservative justices, Stevens came in, the liberals will be viewed, transformed by many political observers as””.

However, the body of scholars do not agree with this designation. “He thought that’s what I call an ‘establishment’ Republican– not an ideologue” when he was in the court, said Edward Lazarus, a one-time Supreme Court law clerk and author of “Closed chambers.” “Whether the label is true or not, who is John Paul Stevens in 1975, a lot of what you see today is was pretty. Thus, ironically, a “branch” of the Republicans, the leader of the liberal wing of the court was, and that says a lot about how far the court has drifted to the right over the last 30 some years.”

And Stevens never thought that he had developed. Justice Harry Blackmun, the court six years before Stevens once recalled the two of them talk about their ideology. “John Stevens and I had fun the other day,” said Blackmun, “the fact that he had been appointed by Ford and I, as one of the original Nixon-appointed, we are now the liberals of the court. Each of us consistently adhered to the proposition that none of us had changed, the court has changed under us.”

Almost all of the important social question before the court in recent years has Stevens’ imprint, including the 1985 opinion of the crackdown in Alabama “moment of silence” for prayer or meditation in public schools.

A year later, he has dissented in an opinion in compliance with the anti-sodomy laws. “If I, the Supreme court decided clerked for him, that it was okay, have penalties for gay, consensual sex, something he agreed to,” recalls Sloan. “Seventeen years later [2003], the Supreme court reversed that position and said it was justice Stevens right.”


In 1989, Stevens does not agree, in one case, the compliance with state laws and allow the execution of juvenile killers. This case, however, it was stated in the last few years, again from Stevens.

And in 1992, he entered a divided court in the case of the protection of the essential right to an abortion, says member States can place “no undue burden” on women, the the procedure.

If Stevens was second in the ranking in the year 1994, his power of persuasion made him an important player on the court, especially with the liberal and fashion judge rates. His quiet influence was clear, as he came, the author of some of the most important judgments of the 2000s.

In the 2005 term, he wrote the position of the crackdown, the Federal sentencing guidelines and state laws took allow the use of “medical marijuana.” He allowed the local governments to use eminent domain laws to take private homes and give you build to private builders, malls and factories. In this case, Kelo v. city of New London, Stevens again took a practical position to say, “The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan, believes it can offer significant benefits to the community, including but not limited to-new jobs and increased tax revenue.”

A year earlier, Stevens led the way to compliance with Federal election sweeping reform and held the States liable if they fail to disabled persons access to public buildings. And in the first terrorism case arising from the 9/11 attacks, said Stevens abroad, terrorist born caught-a suspect in a foreign country and on a Navy-run prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a right to challenge their detention in American courts. For him the question was simply: “What is currently on the game, only whether the Federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive conduct potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim, quite innocent of the false.”

He also wrote the 2002 landmark appeal, prohibiting the execution of mentally disabled people. This was an area of the law, where Stevens’ views changed dramatically over the years, as it will have to block again and again chosen to that the application of the death penalty.

To stop In a 2005 speech, he gave a biting criticism of the death penalty, short of calling for its abolition. “With the benefit of DNA evidence, we have learned that a significant number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously,” he said. “The evidence is profoundly significant. Not only because it is the relevance for the debate on the wisdom to manage the use of the death penalty, but also because it shows that there are serious shortcomings in the administration of criminal justice.”


1997-judgment written by Stevens began a chain of dramatic political events. The judge, the President enjoyed, the castle is no executive immunity from civil claims in the office. This allowed a lawsuit by Paula Jones against Bill Clinton to go forward. She had accused him of improper sexual advances while he was in Arkansas government. This case led to the information Clinton had an affair while President with Monica Lewinsky, a White House Intern.

But where the rights of the individual collided with the power of the States, Stevens was probably on the side of the independence of the individual, but not always. In 1989, he wrote a dissent in Texas v. Johnson, ruled that flag-burning was protected by the First Amendment. The war veteran, disagreed, arguing that the case “has nothing to do with ‘disagreeable ideas.’ It is the unpleasant behavior includes practices, which, in my opinion, reduces the value of an important national resource.”

“This case just caught an emotional streak in him, and he read his dissent in this case by the Bank,” recalled Lazarus, “And I don’t think anyone who heard him read, that differences of opinion– the passion with which he looked at the flag and what it meant for him-could this really ever thought about the American flag, the same way, if you look at it, what you thought about the legal question. There’s a deep steak of patriotism, Justice Stevens, and it was wonderful to see it on display in the court that in the morning.”

Stevens was regarded by many conservatives as a traitor to the possible that the leader of the court’s liberal wing, according to the nomination by a Republican President. Anti-abortion groups, in particular, its case-law on the criticism that the hot-button issue.

Operation Rescue was one of many groups, demanding he step down from the Bank, in February 2006, “Our nation is tired of their brand of judicial activism… For the good of the nation, please report their retirement as soon as possible.”


of the Stevens mystique is a certain amount of “I didn’t know that” quality is the life of the Bank. He was a nationally recognized bridge player, piloted his own small plane for years, and played golf and tennis well into his eighties. In recent years, Stevens-light, rarely granting interviews remained out of the spotlight, even cameras to prevent the talk of his occasional. He spent much of his free time in his Florida vacation home, read.

On the bench, he was known for his thick-rimmed glasses, bow tie and friendly style to the often-nervous lawyers argue before the judge. His questioning was gentle, but determined. However, he was not shy with tossing sharply worded barbs at fellow judge with whom he disagreed.

Stevens was more a criticism of the growing conservative power of the Supreme Court early in President Ronald Reagan’s first term in office. In a 1984 speech, he is unusually harsh comments, hits on some of the current cases. In one, the court upheld Federal aid to schools that discriminate may be the women. “The court went out of their way to announce that the statutes prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in the whole of the associated device,” said Stevens, “even if no party had argued that it did.”

And during the 2000 Florida presidential recount, when the high court fell in the end, George W. Bush, ruled that Stevens could barely contain his frustration at the result

“I think the case was devastating for justice Stevens, as well as some of the other more liberal justices on the court,” said Lazarus. “You could not understand how the conservatives could possibly achieve the result it has in this case, and I think the hardened the feelings of Justice Stevens for a bit. It has a little more of an acid tongue in some of his beliefs, as you have seen, in the late ’80s and early ’90s.”

In his dissenting opinion, Stevens, the conservative majority slammed write, “Although we may never with full certainty, the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is completely clear. It is the nation confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.


Friends and colleagues admit that Stevens was something of a puzzle, hard to figure, personally and professionally. He was one of the few judges publicly supported, bring cameras in the Supreme court in the oral arguments. Currently, only a sketch is hired artists, are the media allowed to have a visual record. But during an exhibition of the court sketches over the decades, sponsored by the Court historical society, Stevens insisted that all sketches be removed with his likeness. There is no reason was given.

“He really enjoys his anonymity,” said the former clerk Peñalver, “and he is not really for personal glory and is not afraid to make opportunities.”

The middle West, the justice born most of the Washington social scene is avoided, which he found uncomfortable, but sometimes rewarding. He recalled recently in his first year on the court, as he rejected first of all, an invitation to a fancy white tie event. Justice William Brennan persuaded to visit him, even lending him his tuxedo, complete with tails.

“The fit is not ideal,” he recalled, “but I have accepted that and have been forever grateful for the generous act that made it possible for me, a night out with the still beautiful and charming Ginger Rogers as my dinner partner.”

The paradox of John Paul Stevens will be many historians scratching their heads over his three-plus-decade influence on the Supreme court. Most will agree, he was an intellectually gifted lawyer with a dislike for public recognition; a personal, friendly man who doesn’t strike fear, again professionally with his pen.


His emergence in the last few years on the high court as a deep, influential voice had to dominate in many ways to come up with a broken dish.

“Really, he aspired to a kind of fairness in its case-law,” said Peñalver, “a nuance that resistance to ideological characterizations. He was not a hero of the right-hand side like [Antonin] Scalia, or a hero of the left, such as Brennan or [airport] Marshall. “He’s doing his own thing and has, in some ways, kept him out of the spotlight.”

And probably for the always warm, always vigilant Justice Stevens just fine.

Fox News Chief contributed Legal correspondent Shannon Bream to this report.

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