Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will make a rare D.C. public appearance Feb. 26 at the Newseum, marking publication of a new book on the landmark 1803 decision Marbury v. Madison. Stevens will moderate a discussion with its authors, Clifford Sloan and David McKean. Sloan, partner in the D.C. office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is a former Stevens clerk. McKean is a Capitol Hill veteran and former chief of staff to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
The book, The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court, accomplishes what many former law students might not have thought possible: it makes the story of Marbury exciting, not just important.
It turns out that Justice Stevens has always found Marbury exciting. The authors describe an interview of Stevensin his chambers last June, in which the justice confided that he tries to cite Marbury in his opinions every chance he can get, explaining that it is "the whole basis for constitutional law" in the United States. Stevens also revealed that he spent his first months at law school (Northwestern) in 1945 studying the case "from every conceivable angle." He displayed the notes he took back then, describing Marbury as "the most memorable case of my law school experience."
The event is sponsored by the First Amendment Center and by the Supreme Court Fellows Program Alumni Association. Ronald Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment center, is a former Supreme Court fellow and is currently president of the association.