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John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life Hardcover – April 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Terrific."—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine

“Justice John Paul Stevens combines a towering intellect with courageous independence. Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman combine their exhaustive research with insightful analysis to give readers a splendid biography of the Supreme Court’s most respected member.”—Newton N. Minow, former FCC chairman

“A completely original and readable approach that connects the life and career of a future Supreme Court justice with his distinguished contributions on the Court. A new direction for legal scholarship and a great service to our democracy.”—Gary T. Johnson, President, Chicago History Museum

 “John Paul Stevens’ judicial philosophy may be hard to label but his integrity is rock solid. A lifetime in the law and the courage to speak his mind (see Bush v. Gore) make him a national treasure on our highest court.”
—Richard J. Durbin, United States Senator

“An excellent, well-written, and fascinating book that does a fabulous job of presenting Justice Stevens’s biography in all its complexity and multiple dimensions. I learned a remarkable amount about Justice Stevens that I had not known before.”—Bernard Harcourt, The University of Chicago

 “In rich detail, John Paul Stevens, tells the story of a Navy veteran, lawyer, judge and justice who has shaped American law for over three decades. It is a valuable window in Justice Stevens’s often-unpredictable understanding of the Constitution and the law.”—John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former White House Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton

About the Author

Bill Barnhart was a columnist and editor for the Chicago Tribune for nearly 30 years. He has made frequent appearances on Chicago cable news channel CLTV and the national PBS program Nightly Business Report. He is the co-author, with Gene Schlickman, of Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights, the biography of former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. He lives in Chicago’s Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press; 1 edition (April 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875804195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875804194
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a 40-year veteran of Chicago journalism. I have covered politics and, most recently, business and finance for several Chicago newspapers. I left the Chicago Tribune in 2008, where I was the paper's financial columnist, to pursue a career as an independent writer.

Writing about Justice John Paul Stevens was a challenge, in part because Stevens rarely grants interviews and in part because the work of the Supreme Court of the United States seems impenetrable to many people. But I figured that if I could figure our over-the-counter swaps on Wall Street I could figure out the Supreme Court.

Stevens himself told me and my research associate, Gene Schlickman, that his biography probably would not be a big seller. Yet Stevens' announcement that he would retire came at the same time the book, "John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life", was released by Northern Illinois University Press -- not bad timing.

My other work includes lengthy articles about economics, politics and business policy, focusing on the industrial metals industry, written for "Forward," the magazine of the Metals Service Center Institute.

My web site is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Today, April 28, 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens will hear his final argument in the Supreme Court. Although Stevens is the second-longest serving Justice in modern times, he probably has garnered greater public attention with his retirement announcement than any time during his period of service. This is why this important judicial biography is so welcome, for it represents the first complete biography of the Justice published so far. And it is a fine job. A good judicial biography should focus on three elements of its subject's life: family background and education; professional career at the bar and on the bench; and of course the period of service on the Court. This 300-page book nicely allocates attention to all three elements of Stevens' life. In fact, the authors don't have Stevens on the Court until page 202 or so. The book traces Stevens' family background, his legal education, and an important Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Wiley Rutledge during the 1947 term, when he first confronted vital habeas corpus issues that would later come into play as a Justice when dealing with the Guantanamo detainee cases.

We next follow Stevens as he begins practice in Chicago, teaches some antitrust law at the University of Chicago as an adjunct, works with Congressman Manny Celler in several antitrust investigations on the Hill, participates in the Attorney General's Committee to Study the Aantitrust Laws, and conducts an investigation of state judicial corruption in Illinois. Probably the strongest chapter covers how Stevens, in the bizarre world of Illinois politics, was selected to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1970-1975).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Smallridge on July 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best kinds of books -- a pleasant surprise. Compared with recent tombs written on Warren, Brennan, and Douglas this work appears slight and academic. However, the size and organization should not fool potential readers. It is a fine read full of interesting observations on Chicago in the 1920s, Stevens' rise through World War II, Northwestern, the federal circuit court, and the Supreme Court. Sprinkled throughout are interesting asides about Stevens and his evolving views on the world.

The one critique I had about this work is that there are a number of interesting points that I wished the authors had expanded on -- such as Illinois politics under Daley and Dirksen and Stevens relationships with Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts.
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By Carl H. Hanson on May 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Justice Stevens has had an interesting life, career, and viewpoints. His tenure on the Court was legendary, his life was interesting, and I am looking forward to reading his newest book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. Very interesting and insightful.
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5 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on May 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have no disagreement with the fine review by Clark. The information contained in the book were all precise and brief. One is left with the impression that Judge Stevens was a fair, courageous, and independent minded judge, but aren't all judges expected to display these qualities? The key theme of Judge Stevens' judicial career was that he had been a prolific dissenter, but why was that? The question yielded little in answer. Judge Stevens was a Republican appointed by Jerry Ford, a Republican president, but he often sided with the liberal judges. Judge Stevens, according to the book, described himself as a conservative but because the other conservatives on the Bench proved overly conservative that he came though looking like a liberal. While I agree with the Clark review, I gave this book a two star rating because I thought that as a biography, the account was a little pasteurized. It may not be the fault of the authors if the subject's life was not as colourful as the readers were expecting. It was obvious enough that Judge Stevens was not a publicity hound, or an overly opinionated person - I'm looking forward to reading Joan Biscupic's "The American Original - The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia". The material from Barnhart & Schlickman's book suggested that John Paul Stevens was a quiet and enigmatic man and those qualities also became apparent in his long tenure as a judge of the US Supreme Court. We are left with a picture of a dignified, intellectual, and independent-minded judge, but the reader would also be disappointed that a judge who had sat as long as Stevens did inspired a bland account of his life and career (the chapter on his military life was about as exciting as his life on the Bench). That may be no one's fault - this was a biography.Read more ›
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