Summer 2005

Justice John Paul Stevens to Keynote Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will deliver the keynote address at the 2005 Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner, to be held on Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill. The Dinner will honor former White House Counsel Judge Abner J. Mikva.

"The Section is honored to have Chicago native Justice John Paul Stevens as our keynote speaker at this year's Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner." When he was appointed to the U.S Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975, Illinois Senator Charles Percy noted that when Justice Stevens had earlier been appointed to the Seventh Circuit he was a 'lawyer's lawyer' and then he was a 'judge's judge.'"

When appointed in 1975 by President Ford, Justice Stevens had a reputation as a steadfast moderate and exceptionally talented jurist who had earned the American Bar Association’s highest ratings. Known as an independent-minded pragmatist, Stevens is often applauded by legal scholars for his serious consideration of the social context of each case and for protecting constitutional individual rights without preconception or agenda.

In recent years, Justice Stevens has taken a leading role in several landmark cases. Stevens dissented against capital punishment for those under the age of 18 years before the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in Roper v. Simmons. Similarly, when the Court invalidated executions for the mentally retarded in Atkins v. Virginia, Stevens authored the majority opinion, having again dissented against the practice in an earlier case. Finally, in last year’s historic Rasul v. Bush, Justice Stevens authored the majority opinion holding that Guantanamo Bay detainees have a right to bring claims in federal court. Justice Stevens is known for writing more concurring and dissenting opinions than anyone else on the Court.

Born in Chicago on April 10, 1920, Justice John Paul Stevens received his B.A. in English from the University of Chicago, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1941. After serving on a naval code-breaking team during World War II, for which he was awarded a bronze star, he studied law at Northwestern University, graduating first in his class in 1947 and earning the highest grades in the law school’s history. He served as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge from 1947-1948. After three years practicing antitrust law in Chicago, Stevens formed his own firm in 1951. That same year, Stevens served as associate counsel of a House of Representatives committee studying monopoly power, and from 1953 to 1955 as a member of the Attorney General’s committee to study antitrust laws. He has taught antitrust law at Northwestern University and University of Chicago law schools.

In 1970, President Nixon appointed him to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. When Justice William O. Douglas retired from the Supreme Court in 1975, President Ford nominated Stevens with the hope that his credentials would help restore confidence in the government. After the Senate confirmed him with a unanimous vote of 98-0, Justice Stevens took the oath of office at the age of fifty-five, and is currently the most senior associate judge sitting on the Court today.

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