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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Letter from AmeriKat II - Justice Stevens

The biggest legal news from the States of the past week is Justice Stevens's announcement that he will retire the day after the court concludes its term sometime in mid-June. As part of the liberal quartet of the Supreme Court he had helped establish habeas corpus for terrorists captured overseas in 2006 and wrote a masterpiece of dissent in the recent Citizens United v F.E.C. - a case concerning corporate free speech in the tune of campaign dollars to candidates. This is an issue that copyright impresario, Larry Lessig has recently taken up - see his site here. President Obama called the longest-serving current Justice
"an impartial guardian of the law, [he] has worn the judicial robe with honor and humility, he has applied the Constitution and the laws of the land with fidelity and restraint."
Justice Stevens was also a dissenter in the Bush v Gore (2000) election debacle writing that:
"One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law"
And in the seminal internet free speech case of Reno v ACLU (1997) which struck down the Communication Decency Act's (CDA's) anti-indecency provisions, Justice Stevens stated:
“The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.”
President Obama is now charged with finding a new Justice who will be the second appointee of Obama's administration so far. Last summer, President Obama nominated Justice Sotomayor to the Supreme Court after Justice Souter stepped down. The political make-up of the bench is not set to change (its still a conservative court), but there has already been some rumblings of a potential Republican filibuster in the event of an 'undesirable' nomination from the Obama administration. For those West Wing fans amongst you, please watch the 39th episode of West Wing entitled "The Stackhouse Filibuster."

The timing of Justice Stevens retirement means, of course, that the much expected Bilski judgment should be expected before June, so any time now. The AmeriKat is personally sad to see Justice Stevens leave the bench and know that the Supreme Court will miss his truly independent voice.

1 comment:

Rudi Moffitt said...

Justice Stevens also contributed to IP case law through his dissent in Eldred v Reno.

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