Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who turns 90 on April 20, is closing in on some other major milestones. In about three months, Stevens, who joined the Court in 1975, will pass "the great chief justice" John Marshall in terms of length of service, and a month after that he'll pass Justice Stephen Field's length of tenure as well, lagging behind only William O. Douglas. It would take Stevens about two more years in office to catch up to Douglas's record tenure of 36 years, six months, and 25 days.
All these statistics are now available at the ever-useful Oyez Project, as valuable an online resource on the high court as can be found. The length-of-service numbers and other data will be updated daily for the nine sitting justices, so you'll be able to track when Stevens leaps ahead of long-serving predecessors.
Northwestern University political scientist Jerry Goldman, founder of the site, added the length-of-service material in part because of Stevens' impending milestones. Goldman laughingly noted that Stevens has on his desk at the Court a signed baseball from Baltimore Orioles player Cal Ripken Jr., who holds the record for most consecutive games played (2,632), having surpassed Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games. (Stevens' baseball, by the way, can be viewed on the Oyez Project's visual tour of the Supreme Court.)
Even if Stevens does not surpass Douglas, Goldman said, coming in second -- as the Lou Gehrig of the Court, as it were -- is "not a bad record to hold."
The stats on Oyez reveal that Stevens is also bumping up to a record held by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as the oldest justice to serve on the Court. When Holmes retired in 1932, he was roughly 90 years and 10 months old.
While all of this is of interest to Supreme Court aficionados, Stevens insists he is not keeping his eye on the record books. "I'm not out to break any records, I can assure you of that," Stevens told C-SPAN in an interview last June.
Footnote: The stats also reveal that the Court's newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, has already beat out another justice in length of service. She's been on the Court for six months and 15 days, but that's more than Thomas Johnson, who lasted only five months and 10 days, resigning in 1793 after authoring only one opinion.