Law in Popular Culture

Ex-Justice John Paul Stevens Chats with Stephen Colbert About His Citizens United Dissent

Marking the two-year anniversary of a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the door to so-called Super PACs, former Justice John Paul Stevens appeared last night on comedian Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report to discuss his dissent in the Citizens United case, among other topics.

In a clip from the show posted on Colbert Nation, the host pretends not to know Stevens has retired from the bench or the total number of sitting justices on the court, praises the Bush v. Gore decision in which Stevens also dissented, shows the audience a copy of Stevens’ recently published memoir about his decades on the nation’s top court and asks Stevens to explain the import of Citizens United in 10 words or less.

The 5-4 ruling, as detailed in an earlier post, found that corporations, like individuals, have a First Amendment right to support political candidates, opening the floodgates for a deluge of corporate campaign financing.

After a back-and-forth about the rights of natural and corporate persons, Colbert suggests Stevens had no right to distinguish between the two. But Stevens has a ready answer, which the host riffs on.

“You’re a supreme court justice, I’m not, that gives you the right to judge things,” Colbert says. “That’s very convenient, very convenient.”

Asked whether he regretted any decision he made after the fact, Stevens offers a final zinger: He mentions none, “other than this interview,” eliciting audience laughter.

Hat tip: Thompson Reuters.

Related coverage: “Justice Stevens Decided to Retire After Stumbling During Citizens United Dissent” “Retirement May Have Been Premature, Says Stevens, 91”

Huffington Post: “Stephen Colbert’s PAC Parody Explains Campaign Finance To America (Part 1) “

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