Justice John Paul Stevens has announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court this summer.
My Cato colleagues are weighing in on his “checkered” tenure. Tim Lee writes, “if you enjoy your iPod and your uncensored Internet access, you have Justice Stevens to thank.” I certainly appreciate Stevens’ contributions in that area.
On the other hand, Ilya Shapiro laments “the errant jurisprudential path that Justice Stevens blazed so honorably,” and charges that “Stevens admittedly and unabashedly asserted his own policy preferences instead of following the law.”
When I picked up Saturday’s Washington Post, I wondered if its staff was trying to make the same point. The front page contains excerpts from three opinions Stevens wrote while on the Court. (I could not find them on the Post’s web site, so I can’t furnish a link.) The first is from Bush v. Gore (2000):
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. I respectfully dissent.
The second is from Baze v. Rees (2008):
[The death penalty is] becoming more and more anachronisitic… I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty “represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.”
And finally, from Citizens United v. FEC (2010):
While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
The first excerpt decries judges who decide cases based on their personal preferences, rather than what the law says. The other two excerpts show Stevens incorporating his personal preferences into his rulings.
So we must consider the possibility that someone at The Washington Post subtly wanted to poke fun at Justice Stevens. Unless it was inadvertent, which would make it even more amusing.