U.S. Supreme Court

Was Death of Justice’s Son Reason for Recusal in Agent Orange Cases?


Justice John Paul Stevens declined to participate in the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear three cases involving Agent Orange yesterday, prompting questions about whether his son’s cancer death was the reason.

Stevens’ son, John Joseph Stevens, was a Vietnam veteran who died of cancer more than a dozen years ago at the age of 47, reports Legal Times. The publication contacted the justice’s daughter, Susan Mullen, for more information, but she said she doesn’t know the reason for her father’s recusal.

Mullen, a special counsel at Cooley Godward Kronish, told Legal Times that her brother died of a brain tumor and he had served in Vietnam. Asked if Agent Orange caused the death or if he made an Agent Orange claim, she replied, “He got ill and died too quickly for him to get involved in any legal matters.”

The suits before the court were filed by American and Vietnamese citizens who want companies that made Agent Orange to compensate them for cancers and birth defects that they believe were caused by the U.S. military’s use of the defoliant, the Associated Press reports. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York had dismissed all three cases, including two suits filed by veterans who became ill too late to participate in a 1984 settlement, the wire story says.

The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether late-filing veterans’ suits could proceed in 2006; Stevens did not participate in the decision.

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