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Beverly Mann

My preference to replace Justice Stevens is Jeffrey Fisher, associate professor of law at Stanford and co-director, along with Pamela Karlan, of the Stanford Supreme Court litigation clinic, and former Stevens law clerk. He joined the Stanford faculty after practicing as an appellate lawyer at Seattle mega-firm David Wright Tremaine as an associate and then a partner and appellate-practice co-chair. He’s still a partner there.

Fisher shot to prominence in the legal world after winning two high-profile constitutional-criminal-procedure cases in the Supreme Court in the same Supreme Court term, in one of them obtaining an outright renunciation of an earlier Supreme Court holding. In both cases, he secured the votes of Scalia and Thomas, and both opinions are among the few far-reaching ones favoring criminal defendants’ rights in recent years. His wife was an attorney in the Seattle public defender’s office, and he would he would take some cases from her office occasionally and handle them pro bono. Two of those cases were the ones he won in the Supreme Court in 2004.

Best as I can tell, his only academic writings concern issues related to criminal constitutional and procedural law. Nothing on abortion. Nothing on any of the other culture-wars issues. Hooray.

He’s remarkably similar to Stevens in some interesting respects in addition to ideology.
He hails from the Midwest, in case Kansas City, and an English major in college. (Stevens wanted to become an English lit professor and only reluctantly went to law school instead of pursuing a doctorate in that subject. And both attended prestigious undergraduate and law schools but neither attended an Ivy League one. Fisher graduated from Duke and then from U. of Michigan Law School. Fisher decided on law school only after working as a paralegal for a while after college; his father, a lawyer in Kansas City, suggested it as a way for him see whether he would enjoy being a lawyer.
His religious background, he told me this morning in a phone conversation, is both Protestant and Catholic. His mother was Protestant, his father Catholic, and he was raised, he told me, a little of both. He’s young, but not too young; he’ll turn 40 on Sept. 24.

It’s hard for me to imagine a more filibuster-proof genuinely progressive nominee. It’s also hard for me to imagine a more effective Supreme Court voice for the underdog, or a more legacy-enhancing move by any modern Democratic president.

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  • The National Law Journal invited more than a dozen high court experts to weigh in with their thoughts on Justice John Paul Stevens and his legacy and the future of the Supreme Court.
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