Friday, April 9, 2010

Justice Stevens

Justice Stevens's announcement that he will be retiring at the end of this Supreme Court term prompts the reflection that he changed fairly dramatically (and for the better, in my opinion) over the course of his tenure on the Court. He was not always firmly in the Court's liberal wing. He had a somewhat restrictive view of the First Amendment in his first years on the bench, writing for example the 1978 "seven dirty words" opinion (FCC v. Pacifica) that upheld regulation of broadcast "indecency."

In more recent years he could be counted on to vote with the so-called liberal bloc (a somewhat misleading shorthand, but one that seems to be entrenched in media usage). His dissenting opinions in Bush v. Gore and in the recent campaign finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) will surely be remembered as two of his finest hours.

(For my post on Citizens United, type "Citizens United" into the search box, upper left corner. For a list of highlights from Stevens's opinions, by USAToday's Joan Biskupic, click here.)

P.S. If you want a comment thread on this, you can go to The Volokh Conspiracy blog, where a one-sentence post "Justice Stevens to Retire" already has more than 100 comments. Of course some of them appear to be odious, hateful, ill-informed garbage, but hey, it's the Internet...

Update: There was a fairly informative discussion of Stevens and his legacy on the NewsHour tonight (which I saw after writing the post). The participants know much more about the subject than I do, and I found only one or two of the remarks questionable.

Second update: A column by a former clerk to Stevens.

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