Justice John Paul Stevens, a man with a taste for bow ties and the leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, will retire in the next three years. Stevens is the Court’s senior associate justice, a position that entitles him to assign who will write the opinion when liberals are in the majority. Though Stevens himself was appointed by Republican president Gerald Ford, he will retire before the end of his fellow Chicagoan President Obama’s first term.
“Well, I still have my options open,” he said. “When I decided to just hire one clerk, three of my four clerks last year said they’d work for me next year if I wanted them to. So I have my options still. And then I’ll have to decide soon.” On March 8th, he told me that he would make up his mind in about a month … As for Obama, Stevens said, “I have a great admiration for him, and certainly think he’s capable of picking successfully, you know, doing a good job of filling vacancies.” He added, “You can say I will retire within the next three years. I’m sure of that.”
In three years’ time, Stevens, 89, will have surpassed Oliver Wendell Holmes as the oldest serving justice and broken William O. Douglas’s record for longest tenure. “I’ve never felt any interest in trying to break any records,” he said.