THE SUPREMES: Goodbye John Paul


WASHINGTON POST: The rumors have been swirling for months, but Justice John Paul Stevens’s retirement announcement Friday drives home the reality that come October, for the first time in some 35 years, he will not emerge through the velvet curtains to take his place on the Supreme Court dais. It is a natural and inevitable evolution: the soon-to-be 90-year-old justice stepping aside, paving the way for a young president to anoint a new legal luminary to tackle the great questions of the day. It is a moment rich with possibilities but also one that warrants contemplation of the life of a man who for decades wielded enormous power with grace and dignity. Born in 1920 to a wealthy Chicago family, Justice Stevens saw his family’s fortune decimated by the Great Depression, and he viscerally experienced the power of the government as his father was charged with, convicted of and later cleared of embezzlement. He served his country in World War II as a code breaker, and, later, after attending law school with the help of the G.I. Bill, he donned a different uniform and took up work as a judge and justice. He served under seven presidents and three chief justices, along the way melding passion and intellect with a gentlemanly approach most associated with generations gone by. Even in his later years on the bench, his passion was in full and civil display, as he decried the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics and struck down the death penalty for juveniles and the mentally retarded. MORE

RELATED: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s solicitor general, is rapidly emerging as a frontrunner to replace retiring Chief Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan is widely praised as an accomplished and intelligent attorney, but is far more conservative than Stevens and could shift the political dynamic of the high court. Conservatives are responding favorably to the potential of a Justice Elena Kagan while liberals worry that, by choosing her, the administration would miss the opportunity to elevate a genuine progressive. MORE

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