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by Vault Law Editors | April 05, 2010


When Babe Ruth hit the iconic “called shot” home run during the 1932 World Series, Justice John Paul Stevens was there.  In other words, he’s old. He has all-but-announced his imminent retirement and—presumably mindful of his legacy—he has recently abandoned his longtime policy of avoiding media interviews (“because it saves an awful lot of time”). Yesterday, The New York Times ran an interview with the perpetually bow-tied Justice and found him in an expansive mood. Some excerpts:

On “conservative” judges:

What really for me marks a conservative judge is one who doesn’t decide more than he has to in order to do his own job … Our job is to decide cases and resolve controversies. It’s not to write broad rules that may answer society’s questions at large.

On knowing when to quit:

I write the first draft [of decisions] … One of the tests I had for myself as to when I would retire was that if I ever got to the point that I stopped writing the first draft that would be a sign that I was no longer up to the job the way I think it should be done.

On eminent domain:

The Kelo case was one of my most unpopular opinions, and that was one where I thought the law really was pretty well settled on the particular point.

On the role of personal experience:

I’ve confessed to many people that I think my personal experience has had an impact on what I’ve done … Time and time again, not only for myself but for other people on the court, during discussions of cases you bring up experiences that you are familiar with.

-posted by brian


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