U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Stevens Goes Unrecognized, Except at One Video Store

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Supreme Court justices have yet to allow television cameras to record their oral arguments. One benefit is that they are able to enjoy relative anonymity.

In an interview to be broadcast on C-Span, Justice John Paul Stevens says he’s been recognized only once when he is outside the courtroom setting. The interviewer starts out by saying, “I’m sure you’ve found yourself in the supermarket and someone saying, ‘Oh there’s Justice Stevens.’ ”

“Never,” Stevens replies.

“Never?” the interviewer asks.

“Never, never,” Stevens replies. He does recall being recognized—once—in Florida, when he was renting a video. The owner had just been admitted to the bar a few weeks earlier, and he recognized the justice.

“I’m almost never recognized, which is nice,” Stevens said. “I just do the shopping and so forth and nobody knows who it is.”

Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse says justices are so unknown that she once saw a tourist ask Byron White to take a picture of the tourist’s family. White “wordlessly complied,” Greenhouse says in a New York Times Upfront column. White died in 2002.

The Stevens interview is part of a C-Span series on the court that marks the first time all current and retired justices have given interviews on camera for the same series, the Washington Post reports. Checks out C-Span’s website for scheduling information.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Justice Stevens Says He Plans to Continue Working as Long as He Enjoys It” ABAJournal.com: “Scalia Worries Gifted Litigators Should Be Doing Something More Productive”

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