Justice Stevens discusses departure and dissent in Citizens United

Justice Stevens is in the news this morning for statements he made regarding his contemplation of retirement.

He is known for his fast and prolific writing, and for relying less on his law clerks than some other justices do.

“I write the first draft,” he said. “One of the tests I had for myself as to when I would retire was that if I ever got to the point that I stopped writing the first draft that would be a sign that I was no longer up to the job the way I think it should be done.”

That day, he said, has not yet come. “Everything that’s got my name on it, I wrote the first draft,” Justice Stevens said.

But he did acknowledge that he had a bad morning in January when he dissented from the bench in Citizens United, the blockbuster decision that said corporations may spend freely to support political candidates. He seemed weary and tripped over ordinary words.

“I did stumble in my oral statement,” he said. “I had been up early that morning writing that statement out, and I had played tennis that morning. Maybe I was tired, and of course I felt strongly about it, but that has never affected my ability to articulate orally what I wanted to say before. It was a novel experience.”

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