Public Citizen Celebrates Justice John Paul Stevens
Justice John Paul Stevens may be retired from the U.S. Supreme Court, but he is not forgotten. At its signature annual event on May 15, 2013, Public Citizen -- the Washington D.C.-based watchdog organization renowned for its promotion and protection of democratic principles -- celebrated the jurist's life and legacy, bestowing on him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
"While on the bench, Stevens, the third longest-serving justice in American history, displayed a deep concern with ensuring the fair treatment of all. He wrote a blistering dissent to the now infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections," writes Angela Bradbery. You can read Bradbery's full account of the event here.
Associate attorney Kristin Kemnitzer, who attended the event on behalf of Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg, recounts, "In a discussion with Yale Law professor and former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, Justice Stevens commented on the power of the dissenting opinion as an important tool in American jurisprudence. While on the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens drafted 720 dissents; more dissents than any other Justice in history. Though not controlling law, many of his dissents have become as noteworthy as the majority opinions." She also reports that "Justice Stevens discussed his dissent in Bush v. Gore, reiterating that he found the Court’s majority reasoning 'unacceptable.'"
That latter case was, of course, the decision in which a narrow majority of the high court effectively handed the Presidency to George W. Bush, whose appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts further added heft to the conservative side of the Court. Given that outcome, many in the audience, and the country at large, miss the clarity and courage of Justice Stevens' dissenting voice.