Anyone who thought that Justice John Paul Stevens, now 91, would slow down after retiring last year should reconsider. In an interview published today on the blog of The Atlantic, Stevens said he is working on a book about the five chief justices he worked with both as a law clerk and justice -- from Fred Vinson to John Roberts Jr.
"I've got it almost done," Stevens said in the interview, conducted by Bill Barnhart, co-author of the 2010 biography of Stevens, titled John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life. Stevens said the book, tentatively titled Five Chiefs, will include personal reminiscences as well as comments about the jurisprudence of the chief justices.
In the interview, Stevens also spoke on the record for the first time about how he reached his decision to retire. He said he had secretly asked colleague Justice David Souter to tell him when it was time for him to retire. When Souter left first in 2009, Stevens said, "I didn't have any safety valve anymore."
The triggering moment for Stevens' own decision to step down, he said, came in January 2010 when he read his impassioned dissent in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Several media outlets, including The Blog of Legal Times, reported that he stumbled in reading the dissent, mispronouncing several words in a halting voice.
“That was the day I decided to resign,” Stevens told Barnhart. Even though Stevens' doctor later told him he detected no problems, Stevens said, “I learned giving that talk that I had a speech problem.”