JUSTICES REFLECT ON LEGACY OF JPS | What John Paul Stevens Got Right, And What He Got Wrong | It Takes Two To Make A Fiasco
July 18, 2019
FLAGS FLOWN FOR JPS|
AP reports JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS will be the 13th Supreme Court justice buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral plans have not yet been announced, but PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ordered flags flown at half-staff on the day he is buried. Flags at the Supreme Court were already flying at half-staff Wednesday and the doors to the courtroom were draped in black.
WHAT WE ALL LOSE|
In his obituary of JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS, Jeffrey Toobin with The New Yorker explains how PRESIDENT TRUMP and his appointees are dedicated to turning over almost everything the late justice stood for — from equal rights for women, to civil rights for gay people and racial minorities, to reasonable limits on the power of the president. “His death is more than just the vanishing of a generational landmark; it’s his ideology, his understanding of the Constitution, that’s disappearing, too. And that’s the gravest loss to the country.”
A MODEST MAN|
The staff over at The Washington Post pulled together tributes and words of respect from current Supreme Court justices about the late JUSTICE STEVENS. Clarence Thomas referred to Stevens as “an unfailingly collegial, courteous, and kind colleague,” and Breyer called him a “superb” justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, “In a Capital City with no shortage of self-promoters, Justice Stevens set a different tone. Quick as his bright mind was, Justice Stevens remained a genuinely gentle and modest man. No jurist with whom I have served was more dedicated to the judicial craft, more open to what he called ‘learning on the job,’ more sensitive to the wellbeing of the community law exists (or should exist) to serve.”
ED BOARD OVERTURE|
Speaking of The Washington Post, its Editorial Board thinks our country is a better place today because of JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS. “In today’s contentious political climate, the notion of ‘civility’ has fallen out of favor, yet Mr. Stevens, with his soft voice and diamond-hard legal arguments, epitomized the best version of it.”
FROM BOTH SIDES NOW|
In The New York Times, Chirs Geidner considers what JUSTICE STEVENS got right and what he got wrong during his Supreme Court tenure. Looking at two of his dissenting opinions from the 1980s — one about flag burning and one about protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans — Geidner says regardless of what you think of his positions in those cases, they demonstrate his ability to see the world from the perspective of others.
BALANCE THE SCALES|
Though he was appointed by a Republican, JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS took a position on guns that German Lopez with Vox says “would make even many liberals blush.” Stevens wanted the Second Amendment to be repealed, arguing last year in a NYT op-ed that the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller should be overturned by a constitutional amendment. Lopez: “Perhaps Stevens’s call to repeal the Second Amendment is one way to get that conversation going, demonstrating that this is a view at least some respectable, mainstream legal scholars hold. If nothing else, it could help balance the scales. The NRA has successfully worked against policies, like universal background checks, that are enormously popular with the US public. Perhaps an equal counterweight on the other side could, overall, push the country closer to the middle ground that most Americans already support.”
KILLING THE DEATH PENALTY|
“Justice John Paul Stevens struck an important blow against the modern death penalty 17 years ago in a Supreme Court decision barring capital punishment for intellectually disabled people.” That’s Emily Bazelon with The New York Times reviewing why JPS turned against the death penalty. She says “it was a step toward greater humanity in the law from a justice who joined the court as a supporter of capital punishment but who came to believe that it had failed in practice and should be outlawed.” And she adds that the fact he was willing to wrestle with the issue so publicly made him very rare breed of judge and justice.
IT TAKES TWO BABY|
Shifting gears, Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times reviews the battle over the 2020 census and says that while SCOTUS averted a “train wreck” over adding the citizenship question to the questionnaire, the rule of law in this country still hangs by a thread. Quite simply, she writes, “It takes two to make a fiasco. That we narrowly avoided one fiasco is no insurance against the next one.”
SCOTUS VIEWSThe New York Times
“Most Supreme Court justices keep a low profile after retiring from the bench. The court is the most opaque institution in American government, and its members go to great lengths to keep it that way. They avoid weighing in publicly on live legal questions, and they rarely, if ever, criticize the work of the court’s current members. That wasn’t John Paul Stevens’s style. Justice Stevens, who died on Tuesday at 99, stepped down from the bench in 2010 — but even after serving for more than three decades, he never seemed entirely finished with the job.”The Washington Post
“Stevens was a good man and did as he thought right. Those of us who are jurisprudential conservatives in the modern sense do not dispute this. We merely think that he was wrong in a host of areas and fight strenuously within the Republican Party to ensure that our views prevail when judges and justices are appointed. The intensity and bitterness this development has helped to bring to our judicial confirmation process are unfortunate, but they are merely a byproduct of our attempt make the court less, not more, important to our political life. It is sad the man has gone, but it is welcome that the era he represented is no more.”The New York Times
“In chambers, I would watch him eat a single grapefruit for lunch while I chowed down guiltily on my burrito. It wasn’t until late in my time working for him that I saw him indulge, ever so slightly. As an end-of-term celebration, he took the clerks out to lunch at his favorite Maryland crab shack. When it was time to order drinks, the clerks all sheepishly asked for iced tea or water. When it was Justice Stevens’s turn, he ordered a beer. He liked beer, it turned out, but you never would have known.”