April 28, 2011

Justice Stevens: "that was the day I decided to resign... I learned giving that talk that I had a speech problem."

"That talk" = the announcement of his dissenting opinion in Citizens United, which you can listen to here.

From an interview published today in The Atlantic.
Stevens said he retired because, while he still loved the job of judging, he had no desire to linger beyond his physical prime. He had witnessed the final years on the bench of [William O.] Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and others who should have retired earlier for health reasons. A few years ago, he secretly asked Associate Justice David Souter to tell him when it was time for him to go. But Souter left first, in 2009.

"When he retired, I knew I didn't have any safety valve anymore."
The suggestion, as I read it, is that Stevens had to judge himself strictly because he didn't have Souter to reassure him that the time to go had not yet arrived. (How can you tell if you've lost your mental powers?)

Why Souter was a unique confidante, the interviewer did not ask.

23 comments:

CJinPA said...

Interesting. He didn't sound that bad. Maybe I was just expecting much worse.

John Lynch said...

We need term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Coketown said...

I'm sure if we had a president McCain right now, Stevens would have held on longer.

Just sayin'.

kent said...

(How can you tell if you've lost your mental powers?)

1.) Open wallet.

2.) Stare at driver's license.

3.) Note whether or not your last name is listed as "Biden."

Freeman Hunt said...

No doubt we'll now get a new justice with a multidimensional backstory.

Sofa King said...

I remember this specifically because I got a tag out of it!

PoNyman said...

A little sloppy, but alright. In part of his argument he mentioned a lot of could haves. They could have pulled the money from their PAC funds instead of taking it from the General funds, for example. And if they had done that then this whole business could have been avoided. I have two issues with this: 1) What if funds from for profits or unions was their only source and 2) couldn't one make the same argument about sitting in the front of the bus or the back. Plenty of seats in the back could have mitigated all the fuss caused by sitting in the front.
Of course, many times cases that reach courts like this were purposefully done to test the laws, right? So even bringing up the could haves sounds a bit off.

jimbino said...

I will know when I've lost my mental powers when I start saying, "Absolutely!" instead of "Yes," start saying, "Between you and I," start saying, "To each their own," start saying, "If I was ..., I would ...." or keep on listening to folks to talk like that.

traditionalguy said...

The slowing mental processes does not really matter on the Court. I suspect that he is saying that he wants to enjoy some full retirement before he is too weak to mentally to remember it.

vbspurs said...

I'm sure if we had a president McCain right now, Stevens would have held on longer.

Just sayin'.


So why doesn't Ruth Bader Ginzburg retire? She is a very intelligent woman and she must know that Obama is in danger of being an one-termer. If she waits, she might give her safe liberal spot for a Republican President to dole out to an Originalist.

I wonder how much influence her deep friendship with Justice Scalia has had in such matters, even subconsciously.

/armchair shrink mode off

Or, maybe, she just likes being on the Bench.

ricpic said...

How can you tell you've lost your mental powers?

There is simply no way to keep up with the mental gymnastics of twentysomethings. Speed and the ability to create whole new systems of thought is lost. Any fiftysomething or beyond who is honest with himself will admit that, if only silently. Judiciousness on the other hand has no age cutoff and may even grow. For an example of the mental capacity of a particular ninetysomething I recommend The View From 90 by Doris Grumbach in the Spring 2011 Issue of The American Scholar.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Well, if you dissented in Citizens United, you clearly have a problem with speech.

jeff said...

"There is simply no way to keep up with the mental gymnastics of twentysomethings"

I would agree except I still can think rings around the 20 somethings in my field. And out of my field.

Simon said...

I appreciate the Atlantic's courtesy in not adding Rehnquist to the list of declining justices. Lesser hacks--Jeff Toobin is a prominent example, IIRC--have done in the past even though there is no evidence that Rehnquist's mind had declined. No evidence either that Stevens' has.

Why Souter? Presumably because Souter had every incentive to throw straight dice, both ideologically and in terms of lacking desire (as he proved by resigning) to cling on until the better end.

Luke Lea said...

I sure would like to read Ann's reasoning on why she doesn't think the Citizens United ruling was a bad one.

Luke Lea said...

Joint-stock corporations have enormous funds at their disposal dwarfing those of all but the richest of the rich. And there is the (unsolvable?) problem of agency, of the CEO acting in his own and his boards interests instead of the shareholders'. I can't see how this ruling will not lead to the worst kind of corporatocracy, to coin a word. To say nothing of the fact that corporations have no sense of allegiance to one country more than another. They are not "good citizens" except in a public relations sense.

I think Ann owes her readers her thoughts on this important legal issue. I want to hear them. Educate me!

Luke Lea said...

What the Citizens United ruling suffers from, it seems to me, is a lack of realism. Realism about the crucial importance of money and the media in politics.

Once the devil is in the saddle, how do you get him off?

sarge said...

sarge here sarge wishs the queen of england wud put a hole lotta money into electin us a king maybe that big eared charles fella its damn nere time

Simon said...

Luke, the First Amendment says what it says. If it mandates stupid results (it does), what are we to do? Your claim that it suffers from a lack of realism betrays that you want a decision made on the basis of what's good policy, not what the law says.

dick said...

Pity he didn't resign before Kelo.

Luke Lea said...

"Simon said...

Luke, the First Amendment says what it says. If it mandates stupid results (it does), what are we to do? Your claim that it suffers from a lack of realism betrays that you want a decision made on the basis of what's good policy, not what the law says."

So we've been living under an unconstitutional regime since the first joint-stock corporation was incorporated in the state of New Jersey?

The original Citizens United argument that the film was for video demand would have been ok. But when the public airways and billboard spaces are sold off to the highest bidders, when libel laws cannot realistically be enforced, when corporations cannot go to jail, when the distinction between foreigner and citizen is blurred beyond recall -- I'm sorry, but the courts have a responsibility to protect the fundamental principles of our democracy. The First Amendment is not nor has ever been absolute. Libertarians are fools.

Simon said...

Luke Lea said...
"So we've been living under an unconstitutional regime since the first joint-stock corporation was incorporated in the state of New Jersey?"

Yes, we were. Why would that surprise you? If cases like Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas are correct, almost every state had unconstitutional statues on the books for more than a century. Likewise, nobody could dispute that many southern states had numerous unconstitutional statues on the books for nearly a century after the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, unless your theory is that Brown v. Board made the Jim Crow laws unconstitutional rather than finding them unconstitutional. So what's your point?

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