Citation(2019) 31 SAcLJ 1135
Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019

1 Mark Sherman and Connie Cass reported in the Associated Press on 17 July 2019 that, “John Paul Stevens, the bow-tied, independent-thinking, Republican-nominated justice who unexpectedly emerged as the Supreme Court's leading liberal, died Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after suffering a stroke on Monday. He was 99.” A lot of information is packed into this brief description; some of it seemed deliberately ironic, and some of it like surprised observations, but clothed in awe and respect. In a biography published in 2010, Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman wrote that, “in the daily press, Stevens is characterized as a hermit in a monastery”.2 We can now compare public perceptions of John Paul Stevens J (“JPS”) as presented by Barnhart and Schlickman, among others, with the confessions of the hermit himself in this book, The Making of a Justice, published in the year of his death.

2 Born on 20 April 1920, the youngest of four boys, he could not answer the question “Why are stoves not made of silver?” and was sent to the lower class in first grade, prompting his father to remind him frequently of the advice first attributed to Julius Caesar, that it was better to be “first in a little Iberian village than second in Rome”. That, according to JPS, was his first academic motivation. He enrolled in the Northwestern University Law School (in Chicago) in 1945, and began his stint as Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge's clerk in October 1947. It was at Northwestern that Homer Carey, JPS's mentor, advised him that “John Stevens” was as unique as “John Smith”; therefore, he

should sign off his name in green ink (very much like the practice of the British heads of Military Intelligence). Green ink did not appeal to JPS, but he got the point, and thereafter, added his middle name to his signature.

3 JPS enjoyed his clerkship with Rutledge J whom he obviously liked and admired. In The Making of a Justice he described the four tasks of the Rutledge clerks. First, they had the time-consuming job of writing “cert memos” summarising the petitions for hearings in the Supreme Court. The clerks wrote about 20 one- to two-page memos a week. The second task was unique to Rutledge J's chambers. He wanted his clerks to write similar memos of litigants without counsel. The petitions of such litigants were usually handwritten and illegible, and almost invariably denied. Those petitions (in forma pauperis)3 were vetted by the clerks of the Chief Justice. Rutledge J wanted to review such applications himself, and so he asked his clerks to prepare similar memos for him. This helped him persuade the court to hear some of those petitions. The third task was to help Rutledge J prepare Bench memos in important cases, and the fourth was to help prepare the opinions for their judges. Rutledge J wrote the first drafts himself on yellow legal pad and then had them typed by his secretary, but he did allow JPS and Stanley Temko (JPS's...

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