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April 16, 2010

Retiring Justice Stevens very much a product of the U of C, prof says

Known as the loudest liberal voice on the Supreme Court in recent years, Justice John Paul Stevens (A.B. '41) isn't as famous for his alma mater.

But Stevens has a long history with Hyde Park and the U of C. “Justice Stevens was intellectually curious, rigorous in his reasoning, and always open to new ideas and new perspectives,” former Law School Dean and Editor of the Supreme Court Review Geoffrey Stone said. “He brought a rare breadth of knowledge to his opinions and constantly reconsidered his positions," which are attributes that reflected Stevens’ time at the University, Stone said.

Stevens went to the Lab Schools for elementary and high school and earned a degree in English at the University. He began work on an M.A. in English at the University, but dropped out to join the Navy in 1941. Stevens spent his time at the U of C as a member of Psi Upsilon and served as the board chairman and managing editor of the maroon.

Following World War II, Stevens attended Northwestern University School of Law where he graduated magna cum laude. He would later become a guest lecturer at the U of C Law School.

“He was a craftsman, who was more concerned with careful reasoning than with reaching any preordained outcome,” Stone said.

Stevens announced his retirement from the Supreme Court Friday and plans to step down at the end of the current court term, marking the end of a 34-year career. Turns 90 on Tuesday, Stevens was the oldest serving Supreme Court Justice and was the 4th longest serving member of the Court. According to Stone, Stevens was “a moderately conservative justice” who “became more liberal in his views, as he came more fully to understand the nature of the Supreme Court's responsibilities in our constitutional system," he said.

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