Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Justice John Paul Stevens

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passed away today at the age of 99. Justice Stevens served on the Supreme Court for 35 years, from 1975 until 2010. He is a reminder of the way things used to be in our political and legal systems before the GOP's decade's long slide towards radical right wing ideologies and before tribal partisanship replaced reason.

Here are a few facts about John Paul Stevens -

He served in the United States Navy during WWII.

He was a member of the Republican party.

He was appointed to the Federal Seventh Circuit Court by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975.

He was confirmed unanimously to the Supreme Court by the Democratic-majority Senate. There were 60 Democrats in the Senate in 1975.

Even though Roe v. Wade (1973) was a recent decision, John Paul Stevens was not asked any questions about abortion or Roe v. Wade during his confirmation hearing in 1975. This was before the GOP weaponized abortion to gain political power.

John Paul Stevens was considered a moderate conservative Republican in the 1970's, but came to be considered the most liberal member of the court when he retired in 2010. When asked if he thought he'd changed or if the makeup of the court had pushed it to the right he said,
"I think primarily the court has changed," says Stevens, referring to the composition of the court. But he acknowledges that on some issues, his views have changed as he has "learned more."

John Paul Stevens opposed the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) which interpreted the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms to apply to individuals rather than militias. After his retirement from the court, and one  of our country's many many mass shootings, he wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times, suggesting the Second Amendment be repealed. The Second Amendment is short - I pasted it below so you can ponder for yourself what the framers intended.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
This is what John Paul Stevens wrote in the NYT Op-ed on the topic -
"Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century."
Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, also a conservative, talked about the Second Amendment and the NRA, in a 1991 PBS interview -
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative, said the idea that there was an individual right to bear arms was "a fraud." If he were writing the Bill of Rights now, he said in 1991, "There wouldn't be any such thing as the Second Amendment." He declared on PBS that the Second Amendment "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

John Paul Stevens opposed the decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) which allowed for unlimited money to be donated to politicians, by equating money with speech. Speaking of the concept that money can be equated with free speech he said,
"Can you hear it talk? Can you read it? [Money is] simply not speech," he says. "And I have to confess that my own views are that there is an interest in trying to have any debate conducted according to fair rules that treat both sides with an adequate opportunity to express their view. We certainly wouldn't, in our arguments in this court, give one side a little more time because they could pay higher fees to hire their lawyers, or something like that."

John Paul Stevens opposed Bush v. Gore (2000) decision which provided the 2000 presidential election to G.W. Bush.

In October of 2018 John Paul Stevens stated that Bret Kavanaugh is not fit to be a Supreme Court Justice after Kavanauh's partisan statements in his confirmation hearing.