A Sensitive Man and Learned Justice: John Paul Stevens, born 1920 April 20th

Justice Steven finds precedent and two dogs in the law library.

John Paul Stevens, whose 35 years on the United States Supreme Court transformed him from a Republican antitrust lawyer into the opinionated leader of the court’s liberal wing, was born 1920 April 20th.

Societal debates over the rights of gay men and lesbians, the role of race, private property rights, environmental regulation and the separation of church and state also made their way onto the Supreme Court’s docket, and Justice Stevens, a mild man from Chicago, was as surprised as anyone to find himself not only taking the liberal side but also becoming its passionate champion.

But the appearance of John Paul Stevens as the court’s most liberal justice was not just a result of standing still amid a shifting landscape. His own views changed over time, moving to the left, particularly on the death penalty and on questions of racially conscious government policies.

Yet in another sense he did not change very much, he remained: a judge who looked at the facts on the ground rather than theories in law review articles, one who tended to regard doctrinal debates as a distraction, which in his opinion was the application of judgment to the case.

Justice Stevens was known for treating others with understanding and deference.  He remained a keen tennis player and golfer, shooting a hole in one in his 80s. He was a bronze-level life master at bridge, which he and his wife played competitively.


“Judge Me” ~~ K. Michelle

“If I Had Possession Over Judgement” ~~ Eric Clapton

“Equality and Justice” ~~ The Paragons

“Death Row” ~~ David Allen Coe

“Split Decision” ~~ Steve Winwood

2 thoughts on “A Sensitive Man and Learned Justice: John Paul Stevens, born 1920 April 20th

  1. I think someone like him would be needed now. I have recently read an autobiography by Beverly McLachlin who was the first woman Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada. Like Stevens she had many difficult cases that came up for the Supreme Court and had to make decisions on them. The book is called “Truth be Told”.

    Liked by 1 person

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