U.S. Supreme Court

This was the worst decision during my 35 years on the Supreme Court, retired justice says

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Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens served nearly 35 years on the high court, and there is one decision that stands out for him.

“Unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision” is District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 decision holding that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms, Stevens writes in his new memoir. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, CNN and the New York Times have coverage.

Stevens’ new book, released Tuesday, is The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years.

In an interview with Time, Stevens, 99, said the Heller decision has contributed to countless gun tragedies that are “multiplying one after another.” The decision has had “disastrous practical effects,” Stevens told the Washington Post.

“I think there’s no need for all the guns we have in the country,” Stevens told the Post, “and if I could get rid of one thing it would be to get rid of that whole gun climate.”

Stevens previously has called for repeal of the Second Amendment or a clarification saying it applies only to people serving in militias.

In the book, Stevens said he had hoped to persuade Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas to agree with him that the amendment was intended to prevent disarmament of state militias. He circulated his dissent emphasizing historical texts supporting his view in hopes it would prove persuasive.

His only success, he said, was in getting Kennedy to persuade Justice Antonin Scalia to include language limiting the reach of his majority decision in Heller.

Kennedy’s replacement on the Supreme Court is Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing was marked by controversy when he was accused of sexual assault.

Stevens said last fall that there was merit to the criticism that Kavanaugh had demonstrated potential bias when he used partisan language claiming that he was the victim of a “political hit.”

CNN asked Stevens about that comment. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said what I did,” he told CNN. “But I think his decisions will determine how good a judge he’ll be.” So far, Stevens said, Kavanaugh is doing a good job as a judge.

Stevens also was restrained in the Time interview. The publication noted Stevens’ statement in the book that Thomas’ views on the Constitution were more important to him than Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment. Time asked whether Stevens felt the same way about Kavanaugh and his accuser.

“I think in both cases, the quality of their judicial work is far more important than the other issues,” Stevens said.

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