Even Stevens . . .
It is not every day that a Supreme Court justice calls his own decisions unwise. But with unusual candor, Justice John Paul Stevens did that last week in a speech in which he explored the gap that sometimes lies between a judge's desire and duty.
John Paul Stevens at an American Bar Association meeting this month in Chicago,
where he was critical of the death penalty. Addressing a bar association meeting in Las Vegas, Justice Stevens dissected several of the recent term's decisions,
including his own majority opinions in two of the term's most prominent cases.
The outcomes were "unwise," he said, but "in each I was convinced that the law
compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator."
In one, the eminent domain case that became the term's most controversial decision, he said that his majority opinion that upheld the government's "taking" of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result "entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program" that was under constitutional attack.
His own view, Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials." But he said that the planned development fit the definition of "public use" that, in his view, the Constitution permitted for the exercise of eminent domain.