It has been easy to overlook United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and his contributions to the American legal scene. Indeed, he has been overlooked for much of his time on the Court -- a breathtaking 35 years -- two generations! -- from the dark days post-Watergate to the dark-days following the terror attacks upon America. He was unable to muster the votes and the doctrinal legacy of William Brennan. He was unwilling to scold and upbraid like William O. Douglas. He didn't change the country like Earl Warren. Instead, he was merely a congenially upbeat, honorable man, who refused to go along with the Court's grand, sweeping move to the right which coincided with his tenure.
He was suspicious of government claims, especially by Bush-era lawyers who came to court to argue against rights for detainees. He was suspicious of the nation's capital punishment jurisprudence, having seen its unfair and unjust results for virtually his whole tenure on the Court (the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1972, just before he got there). He thought the votes should have been counted in Florida in November/December 2000 and that this term's infamous campaign finance case was a disaster. He was, undoubtedly, President Gerald Ford's greatest legacy -- the yin to the yang that was his pardon of Richard M. Nixon.