Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said on Sunday that it is “appropriate” for justices to take politics into account while deciding when to retire.
Though he said that his health was the impetus for his decision to retire from the Supreme Court — and not the politics of the president in charge of replacing him — taking a successor into account is a “natural” part of the process.
“You're interested in the job and the kind of work is done — you have to have an interest in who is going to fill your shoes,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
Stevens denied a suggestion by Stephanopoulos that he based his timing on who might replace him but said there would be nothing wrong with it.
“I think certainly natural and appropriate to think about your successor not only in this job — I'm just finishing reading the book by former [Defense Secretary Robert Gates]. He thought a lot about his successor in [that] job, too,” Stevens said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 81 and has battled cancer, thus far has avoided calls to step down.
Stevens is on a tour to promote his book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, and in it, he mentions a controversial proposal to alter the Second Amendment.
The plan would add five words to the provision dealing with gun rights in America, changing it to read “the right of the people to keep and bear arms — when serving in the militia — shall not be infringed.”
He said, “it should be legislatures rather than judges who draw the line what is permissible” regarding the rights of gun owners, adding that it would be what the framers of the Constitution actually would have wanted.
“There was a fear among the original framers that the federal government would be so strong that they might destroy the state militias. The amendment would merely prevent arguments being made that Congress doesn't have the power to do what they think is in the best public interest,” Stevens said.
“Perhaps today there might be no chance, for certainly the Second Amendment proposal,” he added. “But the difficulty of the process shouldn't foreclose an attempt.”
He is also calling for a ban on the gerrymandering of congressional districts, saying that it is only used to “preserve political power.”
“It doesn't take a genius to say that there's something fishy with these particular districts,” Stevens added.