- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died Tuesday at the age of 99 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from complications of a stroke suffered earlier this week.

His daughters were by his side, according to a Supreme Court press release.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he was saddened by the news, calling Justice Stevens “a son of the Midwest heartland and a veteran of World War II.”

“He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation,” Justice Roberts said.

Justice Stevens served on the high court for about 35 years before retiring in 2010 when he was 90, making him the third longest-serving justice in the history of the court.

Justice Stevens was nominated by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 and confirmed 98-0 by the Senate, a normal result at the time but something other Supreme Court justices have said could never happen today.

President Barack Obama, who nominated Justice Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens in 2010, awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 2012 at the White House.

Though he had a conservative record as a federal appeals court judge, he became a more moderate vote during his later years and tended to side with the liberal wing of the court especially on LGBT issues and women’s rights.

In his three-decade tenure, Justice Stevens’s move to the left was perhaps best exemplified by his rulings in a series of affirmative-action cases. In 1978, he dissented in the Bakke decision that refused to strike down racial set-asides as unconstitutional, but decades later he joined the majority that refused to do the same in 2003 upholding a University of Michigan affirmative action program.

Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, the chairman of the House Democratic Policy Communications Committee, called Justice Stevens “a critical voice for the interests of working people.”

“In Massachusetts v. EPA, he authored a majority decision that recognized the reality of climate change and the responsibility of the federal government to fight it,” Mr. Cicilline said. “His dissent in Citizens United will live on for his wisdom in recognizing the dangers of big corporate money in politics,” Mr. Cicilline said.

The retired justice told NPR two months ago that an armed robbery at his family’s home in Chicago in 1933 influenced his views on the Second Amendment. His older brother, Jim, narrowly missed shooting a neighbor who was a bystander in the incident.

“I have thought about that frequently, for the fact that these accidents can happen when there are too many guns around,” he said, “and that has reminded me of reason to be opposed to the Second Amendment.”

Justice Stevens dissented in the landmark Heller case in 2008 when Justice Antonin Scalia and other conservatives on the high court ruled that the Second Amendment does establish an individual right to bear arms.

In an unusual step for a retired member of the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens said in October 2018 that President Trump’s nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh was not qualified to sit on the high court.

He said the nominee’s statements during a second round of confirmation hearings “demonstrated a potential bias” that would make it difficult to serve.

“For the good of the court,” he said, “it’s not healthy to get a new justice that can only do a part-time job.”

The Senate confirmed Justice Kavanaugh for the seat.

He also told NPR in the interview earlier this summer that he disliked President Trump.

“I am not a fan of President Trump,” he said. “I wouldn’t try to comment on every particular issue in which we disagree, but there are plenty of them.”

Asked about Mr. Trump’s impact on the nation, he said, “I don’t think it’s been favorable.”

Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump said in a statement late Tuesday that Justice Stevens’ work on the Supreme Court “will continue to shape the legal framework of our nation for years to come. His passion for the law and for our country will not soon be forgotten.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the country lost a “giant” who made history as one of the court’s finest justices.

“Despite being nominated by a Republican president, he leaves behind a legacy of progressive rulings that have transformed countless lives and helped build a fairer and more just future for all Americans,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Justice Stevens was a quintessential public service who lived life to its fullest.

“You didn’t have to agree with his constitutional philosophy to admire his obvious intelligence. Or the universal reports about his kindness and collegiality. Or the passionate patriotism he was proud to wear on his sleeve,” the Kentucky Republican said on the chamber floor.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide