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Former Justice John Paul Stevens Dishes, Just a Bit, in ‘Very Appealing’ New Memoir

Posted Oct 3, 2011 5:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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With unfailing courtesy, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 91, writes, in "informative and very appealing" fashion about his 34 years on the nation's top court in Five Chiefs.

Nonetheless, he dishes just enough to spice up his new memoir about life under five successive chief justices over a 60-year span, both as a law clerk, practitioner and federal appellate judge and as member of the U.S. Supreme Court bench, according to Time.

Among the gems are the news that at least two then-justices (Stevens and Stephen Breyer) thought Bush v. Gore was bound to be a losing appeal. And former Chief Justice Warren Burger, according to Stevens, assigned himself the opinions upholding First Amendment claims, knowing they were likely to play well in the media. When the court ruled against such claims, however, Burger tended to assign them to Justice Byron White.

Other reviewers have also given the book a thumbs-up:

The Volokh Conspiracy calls it "surprisingly interesting," albeit likely only to appeal to "the law-nerd set" and lacking any shocking revelations.

And Geoffrey R. Stone writes in the Huffington Post that the intimacy of the book is enhanced by Stevens' initially startling approach of referring to his renowned colleagues in the memoir by their first names.

Calling Brown v. Board of Education one of the court's greatest cases, Stevens also cites it as an example of the court's justified refusal to apply a concept that we would today refer to as "originalism," Stone recounts.

In the memoir, Stevens emphasizes, "the fact that supporters of the Fourteenth Amendment may not have intended to put an end to segregated grammar school education... does not provide an acceptable reason for limiting the scope of the fundamental principle of equality embodied in the equal protection clause."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Justice Stevens Decided to Retire After Stumbling During Citizens United Dissent"

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