U.S. Supreme Court

Retirement May Have Been Premature, Says Stevens, 91

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Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens—who left the bench at age 90 last year—says he may have “jumped the gun” on retirement.

“Two or three years after I joined the court, I asked one of my law clerks to make a study of the retirement ages of all the justices who had preceded me and figure out what the average should be so I’d have a feel of when I should leave,” Stevens said in the interview. Stevens couldn’t remember the exact recommendation, but said it that it was that he should retire somewhere between 70 and 75 to avoid the risk that he’d be staying longer than he could do the job properly.

Stevens also said in the interview what he had said previously: After stumbling as he read his dissent in the Citizens United case, he started to give retirement serious thought. He announced his intention to retire on April 9, 2010.

“But oddly enough, since that time, I’ve felt fine and I’m sure the way the last year has gone, I would have been perfectly capable of continuing the job,” Stevens said. “I may have jumped the gun a little bit.”

Stevens, who served the third-longest tenure in Supreme Court history at 35 years, remarked on the country’s longevity trend and his current good health in a recent videotaped interview with Inside E Street.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Second Lives: For These Former Justices, Retirement Is No Day at the Beach”

ABA Journal: “A Man of Moderation”

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