Fordham Law

The Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens

April 09, 2010

When Justice John Paul Stevens celebrated his thirtieth anniversary on the Court, Fordham Law hosted a symposium in his honor. Held September 30–October 1, 2005, the event—in the words of Fordham Law Dean William Michael Treanor—“was the first conference to examine the jurisprudence of Justice Stevens, a justice who has profoundly shaped the law and whose jurisprudence is uniquely powerful.”

 Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens (center) with Fordham Law Professor Abner S. Greene and Dean William Michael Treanor.

Organized by Fordham Law Professor Abner S. Greene, who had clerked for Justice Stevens from 1987 to 1989, the symposium brought together leading legal scholars and nearly all of the Justice’s former clerks in academia. Their examinations of and insights into his opinions, as well as Justice Stevens’s remarks delivered at the symposium, were published in the Fordham Law Review. (Read the Law Review articles here.)

Notable among the articles collected in that volume is an introduction by Dean Treanor that quotes a letter from President Gerald Ford, who had nominated Justice Stevens to the Supreme Court in 1975. In it, the former president wrote, “I am prepared to allow history's judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens. ... He has served his nation well, at all times carrying out his judicial duties with dignity, intellect, and without partisan political concerns.” Dean Treanor read the president's letter to a visibly moved Justice Stevens at the symposium dinner. Later, the justice proudly displayed the framed original of the letter in his chambers. (Read President Ford’s letter here.)

Today, after Justice Stevens announced his retirement, Dean Treanor and Professor Greene recalled the symposium as they reflected on the justice’s legacy.

“President Ford’s clear pride in his selection of Justice Stevens was a testament to how fully the justice, throughout his career on the Supreme Court, embodied the integrity, the excellence, and the independent thought that the president had been seeking when he named him,” said Dean Treanor.

“Working for Justice Stevens was a singular privilege; it’s incredible that such a kind, decent, and unassuming man could also be such a truly impartial, brilliant jurist,” said Greene. “The nation is deeply in his debt.”


Contact: Carrie Johnson