chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 17, 2019

Statement of ABA President Bob Carlson Re: Passing of former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2019 – The American Bar Association mourns the death of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and expresses its deepest sympathy to his family.

Justice Stevens, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 99, had a brilliant and independent legal mind and exemplified the best characteristics of a jurist. From his service in the Navy during World War II for which he won the Bronze Star, to his clerkship for Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge in 1947, to his tenure as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit from 1970-75, Justice Stevens always stood up for justice and against corruption. After being nominated for the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975, Justice Stevens went on to serve 35 years on the Court, the third-longest span in history.

After his retirement in 2010, he remained active in the issues pertaining to the legal system and justice. Justice Stevens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by President Barack Obama.

The American Bar Association will miss Justice Stevens, who was a frequent speaker at ABA meetings for some 40 years, addressing issues including gun laws, the death penalty, and the role of the judiciary. In 2011, the ABA’s Death Penalty Representation Project named an award for him – the John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award – that every year recognizes individual attorneys who have demonstrated the kind of courage and commitment associated with Justice Stevens.

In a speech to the ABA in 2015, he supported the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage. “The right to marry — like the right to decide whether to have an abortion, or the right to control the education of your children – fits squarely within the category of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment,” he told ABA members.

The integrity, wisdom, and passion for the law demonstrated by Justice Stevens will live on as an example to the entire legal profession.


With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.