Court Battles

Liberal, conservative Supreme Court justices unite in praising Stevens

Current and former Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum joined together in praising the late Justice John Paul Stevens after his death on Tuesday.

In a slate of statements released by the Supreme Court Wednesday, the justices pointed to Stevens' commitment to the judicial system during his 35 years on the bench, his collegiality and kindness to not just them but also those appearing before the court.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who spent nearly two decades serving alongside Stevens, called the late justice an "unfailingly collegial, courteous, and kind colleague."

"Since his retirement, we have missed him greatly as a member of the Court, and now will miss him even more profoundly as a friend," he said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Stevens "was my model for all a collegial judge should be."

"In a Capital City with no shortage of self-promoters, Justice Stevens set a different tone. Quick as his bright mind was, Justice Stevens remained a genuinely gentle and modest man," Ginsburg said.

"No jurist with whom I have served was more dedicated to the judicial craft, more open to what he called 'learning on the job,' more sensitive to the wellbeing of the community law exists (or should exist) to serve."

Justice Stephen Breyer remembered Stevens for his "brilliant mind, which he put to the service of his strong humane instincts."

"John understood how the rule of law forms a necessary part of our constitutional democracy. He understood that laws are designed primarily to serve those who live under them. His work reveals that understanding," Breyer said. "The Nation will long benefit from that work; and he will be long remembered."

And Justice Samuel Alito said that Stevens "went out of his way to make me feel at home from my first day on the Court."

"Throughout his long and dedicated career, he brought a penetrating, pragmatic, and distinctively singular intellect to bear on the most important legal issues of the time. Historians will note his many important contributions to the Court's work, and those of us who had the privilege of knowing him as a person will surely miss him," Alito said.

Former Justice David Souter, who stepped down in 2009 - one year before Stevens' own retirement - kept his remembrance succinct: "He was the soul of principle and an irreplaceable friend."

Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy similarly remembered Stevens for his conduct on the court.

"He was emphatic always in asking this question: Is what the Court about to do fair to the injured party? He was brilliant at interpreting the law in a way to reach what he considered to be the fair result," Kennedy said.

The retired justice said that he and Stevens "became close personal friends."

"We used to say that we should not visit each other's chambers too often because once we started to talk it was hard to stop," Kennedy said.

Justices who did not serve alongside Stevens also issued statements honoring the late justice: Justice Elena Kagan, who former President Obama nominated for Stevens' spot on the bench, said she was "honored to succeed" him and that "his extraordinary tenure has inspired me ever since."

Justice Neil Gorsuch said that Stevens "will be remembered as one of dedication to his country," while Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the late justice "treated others with extraordinary respect and established an enduring model of decency and courtesy for all judges and lawyers."

Remembrances for Stevens, who died Tuesday at the age of 99, have emerged from both sides of the aisle in Washington since the Supreme Court confirmed his passing. He died from complications following a stroke, according to the court.

President Trump ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in Stevens' honor, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Stevens will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday, with a memorial service held on Tuesday.