U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was the third-longest serving justice in Supreme Court history, having served more than thirty-four years on the Court before his retirement in 2010. Justice Stevens had a significant impact on many areas of the law during his tenure, writing the Court’s opinions in landmark cases on government regulation, the death penalty, criminal law, intellectual property and civil liberties.
Fellow Northwestern Law alumnus Carter G. Phillips shares his memories and deep admiration of Justice Stevens in commemoration of what would have been the late Justice’s 100th birthday. Frequently acknowledged for his wisdom and independence, Justice Stevens was also known for his humility and wit. His understated style when asking questions was in contrast to the content of his questions: they were often “a minefield of hypotheticals,” and the toughest a counsel would face during an argument. His opinions were known to have a distinctly Midwestern character: strong, honest and direct. He is remembered for his unique and inspiring role during oral argument, which made him both the gentlest and toughest questioner on the Court during his three and a half decade tenure.
Reprinted from Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 7, 114 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1757 (2020).