In a New Yorker interview set for publication tomorrow, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said, "I still have my options open" about whether to retire from the Court at the end of this term. Stevens told writer Jeffrey Toobin that he would decide on his plans in about a month.
Ever since Stevens confirmed to the press last fall that he had hired only one law clerk for the 2010-2011 term, it has become conventional wisdom that Stevens, who turns 90 next month, would be retiring soon. (Retired justices are allowed one law clerk, while sitting justices can hire four.) Stevens' new comments to the New Yorker seem to hedge that prediction somewhat. Toobin quoted Stevens as saying, "You can say I will retire within the next three years. I'm sure of that."
On his one-clerk clue about retirement, Stevens told Toobin, "When I decided to hire just one clerk, three of my four law clerks last year said they would work for me next year if I wanted them to. So I have my options still." In other words, if Stevens decides he wants to stay on another term, he could easily remedy his clerk deficit.
Toobin's extensive profile of Stevens charts his youth and career, and his evolution on the Court from a Republican moderate to the leader of the Court's liberal wing, such as it is. Asked if the Court has moved to the right, Stevens said, "There's no doubt. You don't have to ask me that. Look at Citizens United." He was referring to January's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned precedent to rule that corporate expenditures in election campaigns were protected by the First Amendment. Stevens went on to say there are dozens of decisions he is "very unhappy with," specifically mentioning the D.C. v. Heller gun rights case of 2008 as well as Bush v. Gore in 2000.
On another current topic, Stevens told Toobin that he does not attend State of the Union addresses in part because "they are political occasions, where I don't think our attendance is required. But it also comes when I am on a break in Florida. To be honest with you, I'd rather be in Florida than in Washington." When the Court is not in session, Stevens spends some of his time at his Ft. Lauderdale condominium.