Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died. He was 99.
Stevens was nominated to the court by Gerald R. Ford in 1975, shortly after the Watergate scandal shook Washington. Though he was nominated by a Republican president (and was registered with the Republican party) Stevens eventually emerged as a liberal voice on the court, notably writing the dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore in 2000.
“Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election,” Stevens wrote, “the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”
He also denounced the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that granted corporations unlimited spending power in election ad campaigning, voted to limit the death penalty, and broadened the core holding of Roe v. Wade. Stevens, the third-longest serving justice in US Supreme Court history, stepped down from the court under the Obama presidency, paving way for Justice Elena Kagan to take his seat.
In May, Stevens wrote a piece for The Atlantic decrying District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 ruling that affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms, which he called “the worst self-inflicted wound in the Court’s history.” He wrote a op-ed for the New York Times in 2018 revisiting District of Columbia v. Heller, and calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment:
That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.
That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.