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John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life Hardcover – April 21, 2010
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"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
“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
“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
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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). How one comes to the attention of the right people in being seleected is dissected with great insight by the authors and makes an important contribution in helping us understand how judicial nominees emerge from the crowd and are selected. The authors also do an effective job in concisely reviewing some of the trends in Stevens' 7th Circuit decision making, relying upon law review articles and other sources. One hallmark of this book is that the authors, one of whom is a lawyer, do not bury the general reader in zillions of cases; rather, they sketch themes of Stevens' decisionmaking in a non-technical manner.
The last third of the book focuses on Stevens on the Court. The authors do another excellent job in explaining why President Ford selected Stevens from the many suitable candidates, involving of all people Donald Rumsfeld who was Ford's chief of staff at the time. Stevens is confirmed 98-0, which is almost unbelievable given modern Senate Judiciary Committee warfare over nominess. Although the Justice had the reputation for independence, and being a maverick who wrote a large number of concurrences and dissents to express his perhaps idiosyncratic legal positions, the authors make a good case that Stevens developed into (in the words of Linda Greenhouse) a "very strategic player" able to build coalitions. His own viewpoint shifted to the more liberal and pragmatic over time in areas like capital punishment, Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore, and religion cases, eventually becoming somewhat the leader of the liberal bloc on the Court.
The authors have done an excellent job of researching their subject: interviews; Justice Blackmun court files; law reviews and other published sources; and the decisions of the Justice as well. Twenty pages of notes reflect their diligence; also included is a selected bibliography and a table of cases. Justice Stevens spent 35 years on the Court; thanks to this insightful study we can begin to truly realize on the eve of his retirement how important he has been in that role.