Left Wing: Justice Stevens, a Loss for the Left

This Week in Progressive Media:

Today's announcement that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retire has set off waves in both the conservative and liberal blogosphere. The progressive site CommonDreams.org links to a statement from the pro-choice group NARAL: "This vacancy could make choice an even more prominent issue in the 2010 mid-term congressional elections. Americans will be watching to make sure senators understand the need for a Justice who respects a woman's ability to make the personal, private decisions that are best for her and her family,” writes NARAL president Nancy Keenan.

Others are too shocked to suggest what to do next, but are writing their compliments and well wishes. Daily Kos blogger Adam B writes an ode to Stevens, as the man "generally regarded as the leader of the Court's liberal wing over the past fifteen years" and points to a September 2007 New York Times profile of Stevens by Jeffrey Rosen to discuss Stevens's unpredictability. Rosen wrote: "In criminal-law and death-penalty cases, Stevens has voted against the government and in favor of the individual more frequently than any other sitting justice. He files more dissents and separate opinions than any of his colleagues. He is the court's most outspoken defender of the need for judicial oversight of executive power. And in recent years, he has written majority opinions in two of the most important cases ruling against the Bush administration’s treatment of suspected enemy combatants in the war on terror ... Stevens, however, is an improbable liberal icon."

The honors poured in on other blogs, including Delaware Liberal. "We will miss John Paul Stevens on the court. He was a great justice and wrote many opinions but one I'll always remember was the dissention [sic] he wrote for Bush v Gore." Pulling up Stevens's dissent, Delaware Liberal underscored the justice's opinion that the court's decision in favor of Bush would lead to "an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed." Stevens continued, "[t]he endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. 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." We're not sure if time healed the wound inflicted on liberals when Bush won, but Stevens was right that their confidence was certainly undermined.