Even Stevens

Former Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter are out there post-morteming – in the most non-ideological terms possible, of course – their SCOTUS careers.

So why not former Justice John Paul Stevens?

Why not with a vengeance.

Especially regarding his change of heart over capital punishment (he voted to reinstate it in 1976, said he believes it’s unconstitutional in 2008).

According to Sunday’s New York Times:

[O’Connor and Souter’s] abstract discussion is nothing like the blow-by-blow critique in Justice Stevens’s death penalty essay, which will be published in The New York Review’s Dec. 23 issue and will be available on its Web site on Sunday evening.

(See here, which the hardworking staff will get to very soon.)

On Sunday’s CBS magazine 60 Minutes,  Stevens – who evolved from a moderate Gerald Ford appointee to a staunch liberal vote on the court – also evened the score on Bush v. Gore (“one of the court’s greatest blunders”) and weighed in on Babe Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Serious against the Chicago Cubs.

Transcript (via net54baseball):

In our time with Stevens we expected to cover momentous events, but, in his chambers, we didn’t imagine we would get a ruling on one of the greatest controversies in baseball.

We noticed a box score from Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Legend has it that the Yankees’ Babe Ruth pointed to a spot in the Cubs’ Wrigley Field and nailed a homerun right there – it’s the famous “called shot,” but whether it actually happened is ferociously debated.

Remember the fateful year when Stevens was 12? Well, he was here when Ruth came to bat. And we figured it was a question of suitable national importance on which to render this justice’s final ruling.

“He took the bat in his right hand and pointed it right at the center field stands and then, of course, the next pitch he hit a homerun in center field and there’s no doubt about the fact that he did point before he hit the ball,” Stevens recalled.

“So the ‘called shot’ actually happened?” Pelley asked.

“Oh, there’s no doubt about it,” Stevens said. “That’s my ruling.”

“Case closed!” Pelley said.

Stevens said, “That’s the one ruling I will not be reversed on!”

Even Stevens.

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2 Responses to Even Stevens

  1. Michael Pahre says:

    You write that Stevens “evolved from a moderate Gerald Ford appointee to a staunch liberal vote on the court.”

    I’ve seen scholarly analysis (link?…) that shows that Stevens did not so much evolve liberally in his positions as the court around him evolved to be more conservative — primarily through deaths/retirements, where the replacement was, every time, more conservative. The plots of liberalness/conservativeness for each justice as a function of time is quite stunning, such that the effect is easy to discern.

    The death penalty case is a prime counter-example to this argument. It is not, however, a representative example of the broader trends.

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