John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens

Infobox Judge
name =John Paul Stevens|

imagesize = 230px
caption =
office = Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
termstart = December 19 1975
termend =
nominator = Gerald Ford
appointer =
predecessor = William O. Douglas
successor = Incumbent
office2 =
termstart2 =
termend2 =
nominator2 =
appointer2 =
predecessor2 =
successor2 =
birthdate = birth date and age|1920|04|20
birthplace = Chicago, Illinois
deathdate =
deathplace =
spouse =
alma_mater = University of Chicago Northwestern University School of Law
religion = Protestant

John Paul Stevens (born April 20, 1920) is currently the most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He joined the Court in 1975 and is the oldest and longest-serving incumbent member of the Court. He was appointed to the court by Republican President Gerald R. Ford. Although Stevens is widely considered to be on the liberal side of the court, Ford praised Stevens in 2005: “He is serving his nation well, with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns.” [ [ - Bush's words saddle Miers: 'She's not going to change' ] ] He is also the only current Justice to have served under three Chief Justices (Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts).


Early life, 1920–1947

Stevens was born on April 20 1920, in Chicago, Illinois, to a wealthy family.Jeffrey Rosen, [ "The Dissenter,"] The New York Times Magazine (September 23 2007).] His paternal grandfather had formed an insurance company and held real estate in Chicago, while his great-uncle owned the Chas. A. Stevens department store. His father, Ernest James Stevens, was a lawyer who later became a hotelier, owning two hotels, the La Salle and the Stevens Hotel. He lost ownership of the hotels during the Great Depression and was convicted of embezzlement (the conviction was later overturned). (The Stevens Hotel was subsequently bought by Hilton Hotels and is today the Chicago Hilton and Towers.) His mother, Elizabeth Maude Street Stevens, a native of Michigan City, Indiana, was a high school English teacher. Two of his three older brothers also became lawyers.

The family lived in Hyde Park, and John Paul Stevens attended the University of Chicago Laboratory School. He subsequently obtained an A.B. in English from the University of Chicago in 1941; while in college, Stevens also became a member of the Omega chapter of Psi Upsilon.

He began work on his master's degree in English at the university in 1941, but soon decided to join the United States Navy, serving as an intelligence officer in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945. Stevens was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in the codebreaking team whose work led to the downing of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plane in 1943.

Stevens married Elizabeth Jane Sheeren in June 1942. Divorcing her in 1979, he married Maryan Mulholland Simon that December. He has four children: John Joseph (who died of cancer in 1996), Kathryn, Elizabeth and Susan.

With the end of World War II, Stevens returned to Illinois intending to return to his studies in English, but was persuaded by his brother Richard, who was a lawyer, to attend law school. Stevens enrolled in the Northwestern University School of Law in 1945 (the G.I. Bill mostly paying his way). He was a brilliant student, with the highest GPA in the history of the law school. He received his J.D. in 1947.

Legal career, 1947–1970

Given his stellar academic performance in law school, several prominent Northwestern faculty members recommended Stevens for a Supreme Court clerkship: he served as a clerk to Justice Wiley Rutledge during the 1947–48 Term. (This service, Stevens has said, deeply inspired him, as evident from his Rutledgean focus on the careful interpretation of the facts in a case present in his opinions.)

Following his clerkship, Stevens returned to Chicago and joined the law firm of Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson & Raymond (which, in the 1960s, would become Jenner & Block). Stevens was admitted to the bar in 1949. He determined that he would not stay long at the Poppenhusen firm after he was docked a day's pay for taking the day off to travel to Springfield to swear his oath of admission. During his time at the Poppenhusen firm, Stevens began his practice in antitrust law.

In 1951, he returned to Washington, D.C. to serve as Associate Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. During this time, the subcommittee worked on several highly publicized investigation concerns in many industries, most notably Major League Baseball.

In 1952, at age 32, Stevens returned to Chicago and, together with two other young lawyers he had worked with at the Poppenhusen firm, formed his own law firm, Rothschild, Stevens, Barry & Myers. They soon developed a successful practice, with Stevens continuing to focus on antitrust cases. His growing expertise in antitrust law led to an invitation to teach the "Competition and Monopoly" course at the University of Chicago Law School, and from 1953 to 1955, he was a member of the Attorney General's National Committee to Study Antitrust Law. At the same time, Stevens was making a name for himself as a first-rate antitrust litigator and was involved in a number of trials. He was widely regarded by colleagues as an extraordinarily capable and impressive lawyer with a fantastic memory and analytical ability, and authored a number of influential works on antitrust law. [John Paul Stevens, Exemptions from Antitrust Coverage, 37 Antitrust L.J. 706 (1972); John Paul Stevens, Cost Justification, 8 Antitrust Bull. 413 (1963); John Paul Stevens, The Regulation of Railroads, 19 Antitrust L.J. 355 (1961); John Paul Stevens, The Robinson-Patman Act Prohibitions, 38 Chicago Bar Rec. 310 (1956); John Paul Stevens, Tying Arrangements, in Northwestern Antitrust Conference on the Antitrust Laws and the Attorney General’s Committee Report (1955); John Paul Stevens, Defense of Meeting the Lower Price of a Competitor, in 1953 Summer Institute on Federal Antitrust Laws, University of Michigan Law School; Book Review, 28 Notre Dame L. Rev. 430 (1952); Edward R. Johnston & John Paul Stevens, Monopoly or Monopolization – A Reply to Professor Rostow, 44 Ill. L. Rev. 269 (1949).]

In 1969, the Greenberg Commission, appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to investigate Sherman Skolnick's corruption allegations levelled at former Chief Justice Ray Klingbiel and current Chief Justice Roy J. Solfisburg, Jr., named Stevens as their counsel, meaning that he essentially served as the commission's special prosecutor. As a result of the prominence he gained during the Greenberg Commission, Stevens became Second Vice President of the Chicago Bar Association in 1970.

Judicial career, 1970–present

Stevens's role in the Greenberg Commission catapulted him to prominence and was largely responsible for President Richard Nixon's decision to appoint Stevens as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on November 20 1970.

President Gerald Ford then nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1975 to replace Justice William O. Douglas, who had recently retired, and he took his seat December 19 1975, after being confirmed 98–0 by the Senate.

As the senior Associate Justice, Stevens assumes the administrative duties of the court whenever the post of Chief Justice of the United States is vacant or the Chief Justice is unable to perform his duties. Justice Stevens performed the duties of Chief Justice in September 2005, between the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the swearing-in of new Chief Justice John Roberts, and has presided over oral arguments on a number of occasions when the Chief Justice was ill or recused.

Stevens has given lectures on the importance of “learning on the job” and treating the law with flexibility, citing as one example his former disapproval and current support of some affirmative action policies. [ [,0,5488014.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork] Dead link|date=March 2008]

As his seniority grew in the closing decade of the Rehnquist court, Stevens was often the senior justice on one side of a split decision and thereby entitled to assign the writing of the opinion. He almost always writes a dissenting opinion when in dissent and writes concurring opinions more often than most other justices historically.Fact|date=February 2007

Although his possible retirement is a highly debated topic in legal and political circles in Washington, Stevens has not shown any hints of taking that option before President Bush leaves office in January 2009.Fact|date=April 2008 He has hired law clerks to work for him through 2008.Fact|date=April 2008 Additionally, he participates actively in questioning during oral arguments and plays tennis regularly.Charles Lane, "With Longevity on Court, Stevens' Center-Left Influence Has Grown," "Washington Post", February 21 2006.]

In a recent article, Supreme Court watcher Thomas Goldstein predicted that Justice Stevens will retire during the next presidential term. However, he would wait until he surpassed Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as the oldest justice in the history of the Court in late February 2011. [ [;_ylt=AsYVkt0tf9pVYH.XB9Ji11xMEP0E))] Additionally, Stevens could retire during the next presidential term as the longest-serving justice if he did so after July 15, 2012 but before January 20, 2013.

Judicial philosophy

On the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, John Paul Stevens had a moderately conservative record. Early in his tenure on the Supreme Court Stevens had a moderate voting record. He voted to reinstate capital punishment in the United States and opposed the affirmative action program at issue in "Regents of the University of California v. Bakke". But on the more conservative Rehnquist Court, Stevens tended to side with the more liberal-leaning Justices on issues such as abortion rights, gay rights and federalism. His Segal-Cover score, a measure of the perceived liberalism/conservatism of Court members when they joined the Court, places him squarely in the ideological center of the Court. A 2003 statistical analysis of Supreme Court voting patterns, however, found Stevens the most liberal member of the Court. [See .] [Lawrence Sirovich, [ "A Pattern Analysis of the Second Rehnquist Court,"] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (June 24 2003).]

Stevens' jurisprudence has usually been characterized as idiosyncratic. Stevens, unlike most justices, usually writes the first drafts of his opinions himself and reviews petitions for certiorari within his chambers instead of having his law clerks participate as part of the cert pool. He is not an originalist (such as fellow Justice Antonin Scalia) nor a pragmatist (such as Judge Richard Posner), nor does he pronounce himself a cautious liberal (such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). He has been considered part of the liberal bloc of the court since the mid-1980s, though he publicly called himself a judicial conservative in 2007. [ [ ABC News: EXCLUSIVE: Supreme Court Justice Stevens Remembers President Ford ] ] [cite web|url= |title="The Dissenter"|lastname=Rosen|firstname=Jeffrey|format=HTML|accessdate=2008-02-14|date=2007-09-23|publisher=New York Times|work=The Times Magazine]

In 1985's "Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center", Stevens argued against the Supreme Court's famous "strict scrutiny" doctrine for laws involving "suspect classifications", putting forth the view that all classifications should be evaluated on the basis of the "rational basis" test as to whether they could have been enacted by an "impartial legislature". In "Burnham v. Superior Court" (1990), Stevens demonstrated his independence in characteristically pithy fashion. As opposing factions led by Justice Scalia and Justice Brennan transformed a minor jurisdictional question into a philosophical battle over Originalism, Stevens concurred separately, explaining that "common sense" persuaded him not to enter the jurisprudential fray.

Stevens was once an impassioned critic of affirmative action, voting in 1978 to invalidate the affirmative action program at issue in "Regents of the University of California v. Bakke". He also dissented in 1980's "Fullilove v. Klutznick", which upheld a minority set-aside program. He shifted his position over the years and voted to uphold the somewhat different affirmative action program at the University of Michigan Law School challenged in 2003's "Grutter v. Bollinger".

Stevens wrote the majority opinion in "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld" in 2006, in which he held that certain military commissions had been improperly constituted.

Freedom of speech

Stevens' views on obscenity under the First Amendment have changed over the years. Initially quite critical of constitutional protection for obscenity, rejecting a challenge to Detroit zoning ordinances that barred adult theatres in designated areas in 1976's "Young v. American Mini Theatres" (" [E] ven though we recognize that the First Amendment will not tolerate the total suppression of erotic materials that have some arguably artistic value, it is manifest that society's interest in protecting this type of expression is of a wholly different, and lesser, magnitude than the interest in untrammeled political debate"), Stevens now adheres firmly to a libertarian free speech approach on obscenity issues, voting to strike down a federal law regulating online obscene content considered "harmful to minors" in 2002's "ACLU v. Ashcroft", where in a concurring opinion Stevens argued that while " [a] s a parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent", he endorsed the legislative goal of protecting children from pornography "without reservation": "As a judge, I must confess to a growing sense of unease when the interest in protecting children from prurient materials is invoked as a justification for using criminal regulation of speech as a substitute for, or a simple backup to, adult oversight of children's viewing." [ [ FindLaw for Legal Professionals - Case Law, Federal and State Resources, Forms, and Code ] ]

Perhaps the most personal and unusual feature of his jurisprudence is his continual referencing of World War II in his opinions, which Stevens often cites in an attempt to appeal to shared patriotic, American values. For example, Stevens, a World War II veteran, was visibly angered by William Kunstler's flippant defense of flag-burning in oral argument in 1989's "Texas v. Johnson" and voted to uphold a prohibition on flag-burning against a First Amendment argument. Wrote Stevens, "The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for — and our history demonstrates that they are — it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration."

Stevens generally supports students' right to free speech in public schools. He wrote sharply worded dissents in "Bethel v. Fraser" and "Morse v. Frederick", two decisions that restricted students' freedom of speech. However, he joined the court's ruling on "Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier" that upheld a principal's censorship of a student newspaper.

Establishment Clause

In "Wallace v. Jaffree" (1985), striking down an Alabama statute mandating a minute of silence in public schools "for meditation or silent prayer", Stevens wrote the Opinion for a majority that included Justices William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, and Lewis Powell. He affirmed that the Establishment Clause is binding on the States via the Fourteenth Amendment, and that: "Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual's freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed of the majority. At one time, it was thought that this right merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all."

Stevens wrote a dissent in "Van Orden v. Perry" (2005), which was joined by Justice Ginsburg; he argued that the ten commandments displayed in the Texas Capitol grounds transmitted the message: "This State endorses the divine code of the 'Judeo-Christian' God." The Establishment Clause, he wrote, "at the very least [...] has created a strong presumption against the display of religious symbols on public property", and that it"demands religious neutrality — Government may not exercise preference for one religious faith over another." This includes a prohibition against enacting laws or imposing requirements that aid all religions as against unbelievers, or aid religions that are based on a belief in the existence of God against those founded on different principles.

Commerce clause and states' rights

On the issue of Interstate commerce clause, Stevens consistently sided with the federal government. He dissented from "United States v. Lopez" and "United States v. Morrison", two prominent cases in which the Rehnquist court broke way by holding that Congress had exceeded its constitutional power under the commerce clause. He then authored "Gonzales v. Raich", which permits the federal government to arrest, prosecute, and imprison patients who use medical marijuana regardless of whether they are using the medicine legally under state law.

Fourth Amendment

Stevens has a generally liberal voting record on the Fourth Amendment, which deals with search and seizure. He dissented in "New Jersey v. T.L.O." and "Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton", both involving searches in schools. He was a dissenter in "Oliver v. United States", a case relating to the open fields doctrine. However, Stevens is more conservative on Fourth Amendment than were William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. In "United States v. Montoya De Hernandez" he sided with the government, and he was the author of "United States v. Ross", which permits the police to search closed containers found in the course of searching a vehicle.

Death penalty

Stevens joined the majority in "Gregg v. Georgia", which overruled "Furman v. Georgia" and again allowed the use of the death penalty in the United States. In later cases such as "Thompson v. Oklahoma" and "Atkins v. Virginia," Stevens held that the Constitution forbids the use of the death penalty in certain circumstances. Stevens opposed using the death penalty on juvenile offenders; he dissented in "Stanford v. Kentucky" and joined the Court's majority in "Roper v. Simmons," overturning "Stanford". In "Baze v. Rees" (2008), Stevens voted with the majority in upholding Kentucky's method of lethal injection because he felt bound by "stare decisis". However, he opined that "state-sanctioned killing is...becoming more and more anachronistic" and agreed with former Justice White's assertion that "the needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes...would be patently excessive" in violation of the Eighth Amendment (quoting from the concurrence of Byron White in "Furman"). [Linda Greenhouse, [ "Justices Uphold Lethal Injection in Kentucky Case"] , "The New York Times", April 17, 2008.] [ [ Stevens's concurrence in "Baze".] ] Soon after his vote in "Baze", Stevens told a conference of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that one of the drugs (pancuronium bromide) in the three-drug cocktail used by Kentucky to execute death row inmates is prohibited there for euthanizing animals. He then questioned whether Kentucky Derby second-place finisher Eight Belles died more humanely than those on death row. [Associated Press. [] , "Wall Street Journal", May 12, 2008.]


In 1984, Stevens authored the majority opinion in "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.", the most cited opinion in the history of the United States Supreme Court. [Breyer, Stewart, Sunstein & Vermeule, "Administrative Law & Regulatory Policy", p. 247.] The opinion stands for how courts review administrative agencies' interpretations of their organic statutes. If the organic statute is unambiguous, the court goes with that. If the statute is unclear, and the agency interpretation has the force of law, courts defer to an agency's interpretation of the statute unless that interpretation is deemed to be "arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute."

Unlike some other members of the court, Stevens has been consistently willing to find organic statutes unambiguous and thus overturn agency interpretations of those statutes. (See his majority opinion in "Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Cardoza-Fonseca", ussc|480|421|1987, and his dissent in "Young v. Community Nutrition Institute", 476 U.S. 974 (1986).) Although "Chevron" has come to stand for the proposition of deference to agency interpretations, Stevens, the author of the opinion, has been less willing to defer to agencies than the rest of his colleagues on the Court.

"Scott v. Harris"

On April 30 2007, Stevens was the lone dissenter in an 8–1 ruling holding that high-speed police chases that result in death or serious injury do not violate the Fourth Amendment ("Scott v. Harris"). [cite-web|url=| title=Court: High-speed chase suspects can't sue police|author=Mears, Bill|publisher="CNN"|date=2007-04-30|accessdate=2008-05-11] Stevens maintained that the videotape evidence was not decisive and that a jury should determine if deadly force is justified, not "a group of elderly appellate judges." [cite-web|url=|title=Court Sides With Cops On High-Speed Chase, Supreme Court Rejects Arguments Of Man Paralyzed in Crash Stemming From Police Pursuit|publisher="CBS News"|author=CBS/AP|date=2007-04-30|accessdate=2008-05-11]

"Crawford v. Marion County Election Board"

Justice Stevens wrote the lead opinion in "Crawford v. Marion County Election Board", a case where the Court upheld the right of states to require an official photo identification card to help ensure that only citizens vote. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy joined this opinion, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito agreed with them on the outcome. Edward B. Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, said the Stevens opinion might represent an effort to “depoliticize election law cases.” [Greenhouse, Linda. [ "In a 6-to-3 Vote, Justices Uphold a Voter ID Law"] , "New York Times", April 29, 2008.] Justice Stevens' vote in "Crawford" and his agreement with the Court's moderately conservative majority in two other cases during the 2007–2008 term ("Medellin v. Texas" and "Baze v. Rees") has led University of Oklahoma law professor and former Stevens clerk Joseph Thai to wonder if Stevens is "tacking back a little bit toward the center." [Sherman, Mark. [ "Following year of division, Supreme Court avoids 5-4 splits"] , "Associated Press", May 10, 2005.]

"Bush v. Gore"

In "Bush v. Gore", Justice Stevens wrote a scathing dissent on the Court's ruling to stay the recount of votes in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. He believed the holding was evidence of the Court's political, rather than Constitutional, agenda in that the decision removed the recount from the hands of Florida's judges and was likely to result in the election of George W. Bush. He believed that the holding showed "an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed." He continued, " [t] he endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Other facts

*Stevens is the second-oldest Justice in the history of the Court. If he continues on the Court beyond February 24, 2011, he will surpass the current record of 90 years and 310 days old held by former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

*Stevens is the eighth longest-serving Justice in the history of the Court. If he continues on the Court beyond July 15, 2012, he will surpass the current record of 36 years and 209 days held by former Justice William O. Douglas.

*For many years, Stevens employed only three law clerks, one fewer than most of his colleagues. However, during the 1994 and 1995 terms, he shared a law clerk hired by retired Justice Lewis F. Powell, and from the 1996 through the 2000 terms, a fourth law clerk served him through a sharing arrangement with retired Justice Byron R. White. Since the 2001 term, he has hired the full complement of four.

*Justice Stevens is a known fan of the Chicago Cubs. He is said to have been in attendance at the 1932 World Series game at Wrigley Field where Babe Ruth called his shot. [ [,0,6576498.story?page=4&coll=chi_tab01_layout 99 things every real Cubs fan should know - Television, Spring Training, Wrigley Field - ] ]

*Justice Stevens does not participate in the cert pool. This means that his clerks personally review every single petition; he then reviews every petition considered to have possible merit.

*Justice Stevens has a high school named after him in San Antonio, Texas, part of the Northside Independent School District. Stevens and his wife, Maryan, attended the dedication in September 2005. (There is a high school in New Jersey also named J.P. Stevens, but it is named for John P. Stevens of textile mill fame.)

*At the suggestion of Justice Stevens, humorist Dave Barry once wrote a column on the antiflatulence product Beano. [Dave Barry, "The Winds of Change", "St. Petersburg Times" (Fla.), September 23, 1991.]


See also

*List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States


*"Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens" by Kenneth A. Manaster (University of Chicago Press, 2001)

External links

* [ John Paul Stevens, Human Rights Judge, by Professor Diane Marie Amann]
* [ Supreme court official bio (PDF)]
* [ John Paul Stevens, encyclopedia article by Prof. Joseph Thai]
* [ Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails) by Linda Greenhouse] August 25, 2005 on
* [ Stevens High School, named after Justice Stevens]

NAME= Stevens, John Paul
SHORT DESCRIPTION= American jurist, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
DATE OF BIRTH= April 20, 1920
PLACE OF BIRTH= Chicago, Illinois

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