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Attorney General Levy produced a list of candidates for President Ford and it seems clear he particularly highlighted then-Judge Stevens. President Ford took the list, he read some of then-Judge Stevens’s opinions which he pronounced concise, persuasive, and legally sound. He slept on his decision and the following day he nominated Justice Stevens, who was confirmed within three weeks ninety-eight to nothing. So it was a very different world, but it’s also a testament to Justice Stevens and the respect that he held in the bench and the bar at that time.

Justice Stevens’s legacy on the Court accords with the historical impact of his nomination. He was a Justice profoundly committed to the rule of law, he took precedent seriously, he considered carefully the consequences of his decisions, he thought deeply about the judicial role, he was fair, and he also changed his mind when he thought that was appropriate. And so when he spoke at the Fordham symposium his lecture was called “Learning on the Job,” and it reflected the way in which he both reconsidered his initial views of cases, when he read the briefs and reflected on them, and how his views changed over time in areas such as affirmative action and substantive due process. And it’s because he fulfilled his great promise, it’s because he became the kind of judge he became, that President Ford celebrated his role in selecting Justice Stevens.

Publication Citation

99 Geo. L.J. 1313-1316 (2011)