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John Paul Stevens Defended the Rule of Law

Justice, Rights, and the War on Terrorism

John Paul Stevens departs Antonin Scalia's funeral in Washington, D.C., February 2016 Carlos Barria / Reuters

An era has ended with the death of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, on July 16th. The last and longest-serving World War II veteran on the Supreme Court, Stevens came to work each day with the enthusiasm of a new recruit and the wisdom of an old hand. During his 35 years on the court, from 1975 to 2010, he wrote his way through the most pressing legal questions of the times, often as part of the majority and sometimes in staunch dissent. His legacy includes cases with abiding importance for international affairs.

Stevens’ jurisprudence is hard to characterize. He took each case as it came, carefully considering how it related to the relevant legal texts, to legislative history and purpose, to judicial precedent, and to the foundational values of the United States’ constitutional democracy. He was sometimes called unpredictable or a maverick. Yet this alleged unpredictability was a

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