John Paul Stevens moved left as the Supreme Court shifted to the right during his nearly 35 years as a justice. That’s how the bow-tie wearing Republican from the Midwest emerged as the leader of the high court’s liberal wing and a strong proponent of abortion rights, consumer protection and limits on the death penalty. Stevens, who died Tuesday at age 99 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, served longer than all but two justices and was the second-oldest after Oliver Wendell Holmes in the court’s nearly 230 years. He stepped down from the bench at age 90, but remained active in public life. He wrote books, spoke frequently in public and contributed lengthy pieces to The New York Review of Books. Stevens liked to argue that his views remained more or less the same, while the court became more conservative during his tenure. “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” Stevens told The New York Times in 2007. “I think as part of my general politics, I’m pretty darn conservative.” But the justice began his Supreme Court years as a critic of affirmative action and a supporter of the death penalty. His views on both shifted substantially to the point that Stevens declared in 2008 that he believes the death penalty is unconstitutional. His legal reasoning was often described as unpredictable or idiosyncratic, especially in his early years on the court. He was a prolific writer of separate opinions laying out his own thinking, whether he agreed or…
Born in Chicago on April 20, 1920, John Paul Stevens was a privileged child of a bygone era: He met Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh at the family hotel and was at the ballpark when Babe Ruth hit his famous “called shot” home run in the 1932 World Series.
Previous Post: Hong Kong Police Discover Powerful Homemade Explosive