John Paul Stevens on Government Reform

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Ford 1975)


Against state term limits on candidates for congress

Stevens favors abortion rights, affirmative action, and defendantsí rights. His 1995 opinion struck down state term limits on candidates for congress. (X-ref government) Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45
Source: Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45 , Dec 1, 2000

Votes with liberal bloc against statesí rights

The nine court members can be divided into three general alliances, but all of the justices have crossed ideological lines. The three conservative justices and two of the swing justices usually support statesí rights [while the liberal bloc, including Stevens, do not].

Stevens favors abortion rights, affirmative action, and defendantsí rights. His 1995 opinion struck down state term limits on candidates for congress.

Source: Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45 , Dec 1, 2000

Let voters choose whom they please, without term limits

In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (May 22, 1995), the Court effectively ended the movement to enact term limits for Congress on a state-by-state basis. In a lengthy majority opinion written by Justice Stevens, the Court held that the qualifications for Congress established in the Constitution itself were "fixed" and could not be amended by the states without a constitutional amendment. The Court's opinion rested heavily on history and the Court's concept of federalism. (The dissent had a very different view of federalism and the result it commanded in this case.) In a critical passage, Justice Stevens wrote that the notion of congressional term limits violates the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy 'that the people should chose whom they please to govern them.'" The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that congressional term limits were unconstitutional under the Qualifications Clause.
Source: ACLU 2014 reporting on US Term Limits v. Thornton , May 22, 1995

Corporate speech can be restricted but not banned.

Justice Stevens wrote the dissent on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Jan 21, 2010:

Prior to the 2008 primary elections, Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating the American public about their rights and the government, produced a politically conservative 90-minute documentary entitled Hillary: The Movie. This documentary covers Hillary Clinton's record while in the Senate & the White House. However, The Movie falls within the definition of "electioneering communications" under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 ("BCRA")--a federal enactment designed to prevent "big money" from unfairly influencing federal elections--which, among other things, prohibits corporate financing of electioneering communications. The FEC [enforced the provision] of BCRA prohibiting corporations from broadcasting electioneering communications within 60 days of a general election. [The Supreme Court rules that this] violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Justice Kennedy , Opinion of the Court (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas concurring):

Some members of the public might consider "Hillary: The Movie" to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation's course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.

Justice Stevens (dissent joined by Ginsburg , Breyer, and Sotomayor)

Neither Citizens United's nor any other corporation's speech has been "banned." All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment [allows that] is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Although I concur in the Court's decision to sustain BCRA's disclosure provisions, I emphatically dissent from its principal holding.

Source: Supreme Court case 08_CU_FEC argued on Mar 24, 2009

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Other Justices on Government Reform: John Paul Stevens on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Feb 01, 2020