John Paul Stevens Courted at Law Center
October 12, 2010 – Retired Supreme Court Justice John Stevens smiled as a number of panels reviewed his legacy during an Oct. 8 symposium at the Law Center.
Stevens was in the audience for “The Finest Legal Mind: A Symposium in Celebration of Justice John Paul Stevens,” hosted by the Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute and its Georgetown Law Journal.
“Few have served the public with greater distinction,” said panelist Neal Katyal, the United States’ acting solicitor general and the Georgetown Law professor who argued Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006.
Stevens wrote the opinion for the case, in which the Supreme Court held that the Bush administration’s military commissions to try Guantanamo Bay detainees violated Geneva Conventions.
A Great Career
Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor said the event celebrated “one of the great judicial careers in the nation’s history.”
Treanor described how in the wake of Watergate and diminished public perception then-President Gerald Ford wanted a Supreme Court nominee known for his competence, independent thought and personal integrity.
“He got more than he bargained for,” joked Treanor, after noting that Ford wanted a younger nominee who would enjoy a long career on the bench.
Stevens, who retired in June at the age of 90, is the third-longest serving Supreme Court justice.
Panels led by Georgetown’s Pamela Harris of the Supreme Court Institute and Deborah Pearlstein of Princeton spoke of Stevens’ evolving reputation as the “liberal lion on the court.”
The program also included include Provost Christopher Eisgruber of Princeton; Jeffrey Fisher of Stanford Law School; Jamal Greene of Columbia Law School; Preeta Bansal, general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget; former Solicitor General Gregory Garre and former Assistant Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan.
Panelists also recalled how Stevens would politely request permission before interrupting an attorney with a zinger that could completely devastate the attorney’s oral argument.
“Never for a second should an advocate before Justice Stevens have ever thought that the question was not going to be extremely threatening [to the] entire case,” said former Solicitor General Paul Clement.