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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 99, Has Died


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is dead at the age of 99. Multiple news outlets and SCOTUSblog have confirmed Stevens’s passing.

Stevens served on the Supreme Court from 1975 until 2010.

Stevens died at Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale after suffering a stroke on Monday, July 15. He is survived by his daughters Elizabeth and Susan, nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. He was a Chicago native.

“On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice John Paul Stevens has passed away,” a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts began. “A son of the Midwest heartland and a veteran of World War II, Justice Stevens devoted his life long to public service, including 35 years on the Supreme Court. He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation. We extend our deepest condolences to his children Elizabeth and Susan, and to his extended family.”

The Supreme Court noted that Stevens served in the Navy from 1942-1945 and has authored three books. Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Stevens sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He was appointed in 1970 by Richard Nixon.

Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford and replaced on the bench by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan when he retired. Stevens, remembered as the “leader of the liberal wing” of the high court, in his last months and years voiced criticism of the Second Amendment, even wondering why abolishing the Second Amendment wasn’t more popular.

In an interview that posted on SCOTUSblog in June, Stevens said he wished his dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller was “more forceful.”

“I think that interpreting the Second Amendment to protect the individual right to own firearms is really just absurd, and it’s also terribly important,” he said. “It happens over and over and over again. I think I should have been more forceful in making that point in my Heller dissent.

Stevens memorably wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2018, shortly after the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In it, he praised student activists while also advising them to “seek more effective and more lasting reform,” namely the “repeal of the Second Amendment.”

“Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that ‘a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,'” Stevens wrote. “Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”

[Image via Allison Shelley/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.