Justice Digest: The Retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice Watch AFJ in the News
This Week's Headlines  We're Hiring!

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Justice Watch

22% thermometer

Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his plans to retire from the Supreme Court. 

The time is now.  With his retirement the Supreme Court – and the country – will lose one of its strongest voices in defense of core constitutional values.

Act Now.

The State of the Judiciary
Last week, Alliance for Justice released a new report, The State of the Judiciary: The Obama Administration 2009. The report examines President Obama’s judicial nominations during his first year in office, detailing how Republican Senators obstructed almost every nominee in 2009 with anonymous holds or threatened filibusters, regardless of any purported controversy over a nominee’s background. Read more on our Justice Watch blog.

Stevens Leaves Large Shoes to Fill
Justice Stevens’s announcement Friday that he will retire at the end of this term provides President Obama the rare opportunity to appoint two Supreme Court justices within his first term. Replacing Justice Stevens also presents the President with a great responsibility: filling the very large shoes left by a justice with a 35-year legacy of defending the personal freedoms and human dignity of everyday Americans. Read more on our Justice Watch blog.

The Supreme Court Confirmation Process: Play Ball!
AFJ President Nan Aron participated in a well-attended panel discussion about the Supreme Court confirmation process at American University’s Washington College of Law last week. Nan was joined by William Yeomans, Fellow in Law and Government at Washington College of Law and former acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Rachel Brand, counsel at WilmerHale and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, and moderator Steve Wermiel, Fellow in Law and Government at Washington College of Law. Read more on our Justice Watch blog

Combating Climate Change: Why I will be on the National Mall on April 25 and why we all should.
Guest Post by Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, former president of the Association of American Law Schools, and Chair of the Board of Directors of Earth Day Network.

Climate Change and its disparate impacts on vulnerable populations represent environmental injustice on global scale. You don’t have to go to the less developed world to see these impacts, you can see these consequences on marginalized communities here in the United States. These impacts can be directly on health with increased asthma rates, or on the economic prospects on industries where people of color are overrepresented. Read more on our Justice Watch blog.

AFJ in the News 

Video of BBC World News

Watch Alliance for Justice President, Nan Aron, discuss Justice Stevens' retirement on BBC World News.

Stevens’s Retirement Is Political Test for Obama
Leaders of liberal groups, like Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice, are suspicious of conservative assurances that a more centrist nominee would face little opposition. They note that Justice Sotomayor was perceived by many on the left as far more centrist than they would have preferred, and yet Republicans portrayed her as a “judicial activist,” and 31 voted against her.

“No matter who he sends up,” Ms. Aron said, “I think Republicans are loaded for bear and will oppose.” Read more in the New York Times.

Actually, John Paul Stevens Is a Conservative
But mostly it's meant that he tends to rule on the side of "restraint," as Brina Milikowsky of the liberal Alliance for Justice puts it, repeatedly defending "the role of the judiciary against the expansion of the executive," the "ordinary American against the encroachment of big business," and the "rights of the accused within the criminal-justice system." As AFJ notes, Stevens "has voted against the government and in favor of the individual more frequently than any other sitting justice." This may not square with the contemporary judicial conservatism of Scalia and Thomas. But in its wariness of government, veneration of the individual, and respect for precedent, it's a kind of conservatism all the same. Read more in Newsweek.

Obamacare and the Fight for Stevens' Seat
The expected firestorm of conservative resistance to any candidate for the seat has some on the left arguing that they might as well go for broke.

“I think it gives the president latitude to pick who he wants and not simply base the choice on who is most likely to get through,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, which advocates for a number of progressive causes. Read more in the Daily Beast.

This Week's Headlines 

A politician for a polarized court
The Republicans’ determination in holding all 41 of their votes against health care, and their astonishing performance in delaying confirmation of Obama’s noncontroversial judges, suggest that the president’s choice may face a filibuster — one Democrats may have trouble breaking. But the president has an option that could minimize the filibuster threat, speed confirmation, avoid turning the court farther right, increase the court’s diversity of experience and add a justice who knows how to build majorities.

He can select a politician — better yet, a sitting senator. Read more in Politico.

Short Shrift: The Supreme Court shortlist as political anthropology.
Bear in mind that the Obama administration has been slow to name its lower-court judges and has then faced opposition to even the most uncontroversial nominees. While the fight for Stevens' seat looks to the average American like a one-off, it happens amid a puzzling lack of passion over the judiciary from this White House. We may yet get a peek at a White House roaring into action this summer, to correct for the rightward tilt at the Supreme Court. Or we may watch the White House continue to put the courts second to everything else in its legislative agenda. Read more on Slate.

Senate Democrats defend 9th Circuit Court nominee Liu against GOP criticism
Senate Democrats defended Goodwin Liu's candidacy for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, a day after the GOP suggested his nomination might be in jeopardy because he had not provided enough information to a Senate committee.

Liu, a University of California at Berkeley law professor nominated by President Obama in February, is scheduled for an April 16 hearing before the Judiciary Committee, and the fight over his nomination escalated this week in anticipation of that session. Read more in the Washington Post.

Dawn E. Johnsen withdraws bid for confirmation to Justice Dept. post
President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has withdrawn her bid for confirmation after languishing for more than a year without a Senate vote. In announcing her decision Friday, Dawn E. Johnsen cited "lengthy delays and political opposition."  Read more in the Washington Post.

We're Hiring 

Undergraduate and Graduate Student Internships
Alliance for Justice offers unpaid internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students during the fall, winter and spring academic semesters.  Interns must be able to work a minimum of twelve hours per week. Interns will gain substantive experience working on a wide range of projects with professionals in Alliance for Justice's Fundraising, Outreach, Communications and Nonprofit Advocacy Departments. 

You're Invited!


Blueprint for Accountability, will feature a stimulating panel of the world's foremost experts and artists on the issues of torture, democracy, and accountability–engaging the public in constructing a blueprint for a more just and democratic future. 

Click here to learn more about this event.  We hope you will join us in person at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on April 22nd or watch a live stream broadcast of the event on FORA.tv.  A video of the event will be available on demand following the presentation.  Campus activists are encouraged to organize a watch party or similar event utilizing resources provided by our partner, Culture Project.


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