Feature

Author of the week: John Paul Stevens

In Five Chiefs, the former Supreme Court Justice gives his opinion of the five chief justices he knew personally.

Even for a Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens had a reputation for being tight-lipped, said Adam Liptak in The New York Times. Now that he’s no longer writing court opinions, the 91-year-old, who retired in June 2010 after 35 years on the court, seems to have decided it’s okay to air his thoughts more freely. His new book, Five Chiefs, offers Stevens’s takes on the five chief justices he knew personally, including the three he served with. Though the book isn’t dishy, it is sometimes blunt. Chief Justice Warren Burger, who led the court from 1969 to 1986, receives the roughest treatment. “I think he was just not as careful a scholar as he should have been,” Stevens says. “He didn’t do a careful job of keeping track of how everyone voted and the reasons why.”

Stevens is more generous in his assessment of current Chief Justice John Roberts, said Nina Totenberg in NPR.org. Though Roberts was often an ideological adversary, Stevens praises the way he manages the court. “He’s thoroughly prepared. He’s very fair in his statement of the case, and he lets everyone have a say.” Stevens adds, “He didn’t put stripes on his robe”—a reference to the bling that William Rehnquist added to the sleeves of his court attire when he became chief justice. Not all the humor in the court was catty. Occasionally, the phone would ring when the justices were in conference, which could only happen if the caller misdialed. Says Stevens: “Byron White would answer and say, ‘This is Joe’s Bar.’”

Recommended

Study: Climate change made summer droughts 20 times more likely
Part of the Guadiana River in Spain has dried up.
global warming strikes again

Study: Climate change made summer droughts 20 times more likely

North Korea launches another missile toward South Korean waters
A view of a TV screen on Oct. 4 in which a North Korean missile is being fired.
Yet Another Launch

North Korea launches another missile toward South Korean waters

At least 50 killed during airstrike on Ethiopian school
A view of protestors waving Ethiopian flags in the country in 2021.
Rest in Peace

At least 50 killed during airstrike on Ethiopian school

OPEC to slash oil production
The leaders of the OPEC nations are seen during a recent conference, during which oil production was slashed
Pain at the pump?

OPEC to slash oil production

Most Popular

Lizzo invited for an encore flute performance at James Madison's home
Lizzo
play it again sam?

Lizzo invited for an encore flute performance at James Madison's home

Russian war bloggers warn Ukraine is threatening Kherson defensive lines
Ukraine inroads in Kherson
War on the Rocks

Russian war bloggers warn Ukraine is threatening Kherson defensive lines

Survey reveals less than half of Americans plan to get flu shot this season
influenza vaccine syringe photo
Masks trump flu vax

Survey reveals less than half of Americans plan to get flu shot this season