The excellent interview with Justice John Paul Stevens in the April 4 New York Times by Adam Liptak contains several fresh, at least to me, comments by a man who rarely gives interviews and, when he does, often sticks to remarks he's made before in speeches.
For example, Stevens's thoughts on his opinion in the 2008 Baze v. Rees capital punishment case seemed, for the first time I've seen, to dispel the notion that Stevens is inching toward an absolute rejection of the death penalty as his time on the Court nears an end.
But the most interesting comment for me was his acknowledgment that his personal experiences have influenced his opinion-writing. Besides being an indirect endorsement of a biographer's labors, this comment is important for two reasons. First, Stevens's former law partner and long-time friend Edward Rothschild once told me in no uncertain terms that Steven's personal background didn't matter -- to his work as a judge or to the public. I didn't agree, of course.
But I was aware that, aside from a handful of recollections -- such as his memory of being in Wrigley Field when Babe Ruth signaled an upcoming home run to fans in the bleachers -- Stevens does not dwell on the past.
Indeed, one characteristic of a pragmatist is the tendency to look forward with optimism. The second reason Stevens's remark to Adam Liptak is important is that it signals that Stevens, who by design has been out of the public spotlight, in retirement might turn his formidable writing skills to a memoir that would inspire and instruct future generations of lawyers and judges as well as presidents and senators who have the duty to nominate and confirm federal judges. — Bill Barnhart