Me, Justice Stevens, and the Dublin Marathon

Here is a sentence I never expected to write. So there I was on Monday in the middle of running the Dublin Marathon when I decided to listen on my Ipod to a C-Span podcast interview with Justice Stevens. I had traveled to Dublin to run the actual Dublin marathon and to co-host Antitrust Marathon IV: Marathon with Authority, a round table discussion co-hosted with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and the Irish Competition Authority.

Around Mile 11, I was hurting and turned from a combination of Irish rock and random songs to some pod casts. After some short New York Times and NPR pod casts, I remembered that I had downloaded a series of C-Span interviews with the current Justices and Sandra Day O’Connor.

I have a special fondness for Justice Stevens. We are both Chicagoans, Cub Fans, and Northwestern Law grads. More improbably, we even had the same antitrust professor (James Rahl) at Northwestern, albeit about 35 years apart. That plus the fact he was primarily an antitrust litigator before going on the bench was enough to get me to devote the next 30 some minutes, and about 3 miles, to the Stevens interview.

A lot of it was a fluffy discussion of his chambers and personal history. But mixed among the fluff and the questions for non-lawyers (What is certiorari?), there were a handful of interesting tidbits. Justice Stevens talked about the reasons and impact of not participating in the cert pool, the importance of writing his own first drafts, and his interest in having the court hear a few more cases than its current docket. There are no smoking guns or shocking revelations, but Justice Stevens does mention the need for Justices from diverse legal backgrounds, such as veterans and litigators, as an important mix for the Court to have on the bench. Justice Stevens is of course both and as far as I know the only current Justice to actually have made his living as a litigator.

The main thing I came away with was the genuine niceness of the good Justice which was my impression from the only time I ever met him. In 1993, I taught in a summer program in Innsbruck, Austria where Justice Stevens was lecturing. Instead of staying for the three days as promised, he stayed and lectured the entire week and interacted warmly with the students and the rest of the faculty. At one point, a student asked him to sign the packet of course materials which he did after class. Because he did not want to play favorites, he then stayed and patiently signed for more than a hundred students.

In the pod cast interview, Stevens demurred on picking a most important or favorite case. But when asked about a most memorable experience, he didn’t hesitate and proudly mentioned throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field before a Cubs game at the age of 85.

With that, I grinned, quickened my pace a bit, and headed up the next of an endless series of hills on my way around Dublin on a surprisingly warm and sunny late October day.

I have not listened to the rest of the interviews. But if anyone else has, please post if there are particularly revealing or interesting moments.

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6 Responses

  1. Mike Zimmer says:

    Spencer, Great post. My most vivid remembrance of Justice Stevens was his speech at the inaugural Fairchild Lecture at the University of Wisconsin. He was on the 7th circuit when he got that call about his nomination for the Supreme Court. Judge Fairchild was, according to him, the first person he turned to. And, according to him, Tom Fairchild was the only one keeping his head on straight in all the excitement. At one point, Justice Stevens said he asked , “Why me?” Fairchild responded, “Your the only antitrust litigator here and the most conservative member of this court.” Stevens, said something to the effect, “Oh, yah, I forgot that.” His speech was a warm, witty and personal presentation. It showed that he is just the kind of person I want on the Court. Tom Fairchild thought so too.

  2. Dave says:

    Roberts was a litigator for quite some time

  3. Orin Kerr says:

    Kennedy was a litigator, too.

  4. Will Baude says:

    Do you mean civil-trial litigator? The Chief Justice was an appellate litigator for years; Justice Alito litigated criminal cases on behalf of the United States. And anyway, Justice Sotomayor litigated civil cases before she became a judge, as well as criminal ones.

  5. Spencer Weber Waller says:

    Roberts was head of appellate litigation for Hogan & Hartson prior to his appointment to SCOTUS. Kennedy also practiced for some time, but was in substantial part a lobbyist in Sacramento prior to his appointment to the bench. Stevens remains the only current Justice whose primary practice prior to the bench was as a civil litigator who actually tried cases.