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Legacy of a Judicial Activist

Posted on April 19 2010 2:47 pm
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by John Perazzo

Justice John Paul Stevens has announced that he will be stepping down from the Supreme Court in June of this year, after three-and-a-half decades on the bench. Stevens was selected for the Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford in the aftermath of the Watergate debacle. As Thomas Sowell points out, “the biggest argument in favor of nominating” Stevens at that time “was that he could be confirmed by the Senate without a fight” – thereby minimizing further public scrutiny of an already reeling Republican Party. But Ford’s decision to choose the path of least resistance would prove costly to the United States over the ensuing 35 years, as Stevens evolved into the very embodiment of an activist Justice who regularly bent and twisted written law so as to make it conform with his own political agendas.

The task of replacing Stevens on the High Court now falls to Barack Obama, who has already lauded the outgoing Justice as a “brilliant, non-ideological, pragmatic” man, “committed above all to justice, integrity, and the rule of law.” The President has pledged to seek, for Stevens’ successor, someone “with similar qualities” – an individual who understands that “in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.” Leaving aside the fact that our nation’s Commander-in-Chief misidentified as a “democracy” the very republic over which he presides, it was indeed remarkable that such a sentiment could leave the lips, without a discernible smirk, of the very man who so recently had chosen to “drown out” the will of most “ordinary citizens” by signing a 2,700-page healthcare bill that few Americans supported. But Obama was honest about one thing: he undoubtedly will seek to replace Stevens with someone of similar political leanings and procedural tendencies.

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