Justice John Paul Stevens (1920-2019)

Standard

​I have always been fascinated by the legal system and the law. My whole life, including reading for pleasure has included government, history, and legal issues. I have an analytical and argumentative mind and nothing comes close to both of those attributes more than the law.

In high school my favorite class senior year was Everyday Law, which would most likely be compared to a civics class – what to do if you get pulled over? What are your rights when approached by a polic officer? Your neighbor is infringing on your property, what do you do? That sort of thing. It was an elective, and I still really believe this type of class should be required for students to prepare them for the real world they are about to enter.

I have been privileged to live in a time where I have witnessed the ascension of the first African-American, the first woman, and the first Latina to the Supreme Court (Marshall, Day O’Connor, and Sotomayor, respectively).

When I served jury duty, the cover of Time magazine was Chief Justice William Brennan who was retiring. He was one of my favorite justices and his court more than any other cemented my philosophy firmly on the liberal side of things, although I would characterize my views as less liberal and more founded in civil rights and equality.

I continued reading and studying the law throughout my life, and majored in political science/pre-law for two years of college. Constitutional Law was my favorite class, and I loved my professor who I had for all three of my law classes. I still have all of those textbooks and I’ve added The Law of Writing to my collection. My enthrallment has never subsided.

Until 2010 when he retired, for as long as I can remember, Justice John Paul Stevens has been a staple on the Supreme Court. As the Bush years passed, and the liberal wing was replaced by more conservative jurists, Justice Stevens remained stalwart, continuing the tradition of upholding the Constitution through law and not political partisanship. It is essential to remember that Justice Stevens was appointed by a Republican, President Gerald Ford as was Brennan (by President Dwight D. Eisenhower).

John Paul Stevens was the third longest serving justice on the Supreme Court. When he joined the Burger Court (soon to become the Brennan Court), I had just turned nine and for my entire life since, Stevens became a member of one of the most iconic groups of justices. While all generations have heroes to look up to and all Supreme Courts make important, life changing, country-wide decisions, I was blessed with the ability to follow the Supreme Court that included John Paul Stevens as well as his iconic colleagues.

Justice Stevens read briefs, and listened to oral arguments, deciding cases such as Hamdan v Rumsfield, Massachusetts v EPA, and dissenting on Citizens United v FEC and Bush v Gore as well as DC v Heller. Related to this case, he believes the 2nd Amendment should be readdressed, whether appealed or amended is still to see. He hasn’t been on the court in nearly a decade, but his voice will be missed in our world.

Rest in peace, Justice Stevens.

As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.
“Excerpts From Ruling on Internet: ‘Statute Abridges the Freedom of Speech'”. http://www.nytimes.com. June 27, 1997. 

Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that was designed to separate religion and government, we increase the risk of religious strife and weaken the foundation of our democracy.
Church & State Editorial, http://www.au.org. May 2010.

A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.
Dissenting, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010)

Preet Bharara had a lovely reflection on Justice Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens – A Maverick on the Bench Dies at 99

Justice Stevens with Justice Elena Kagan, who took his place upon his retirement. Photo from Supreme Court government website. (c)2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s