Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens joined the U.S. Supreme Court on December 19, 1975, replacing Justice William Douglas. Stevens was born on April 20, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1941. Although Stevens initially pursued a graduate degree in English, he joined the U.S. Navy just before Pearl Harbor. When he left the Navy at the end of the Second World War, he attended the Northwestern University School of Law. Stevens graduated magna cum laude from law school in 1947.

After serving as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Blount Rutledge in 1947-1948, Stevens practiced law in Illinois for most of the next two decades. He formed his own law firm in 1952 and developed a specialty in antitrust law. In 1969, Stevens played a pivotal role in an investigation of a corruption scandal in the Illinois Supreme Court. This got the attention of many observers, and President Richard Nixon nominated Stevens for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the following year. Stevens held this position for about five years.

President Gerald Ford, who had served as Vice President under Nixon, nominated Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court on November 28, 1975. The Senate confirmed him on December 17 in a 98-0 vote, and he took the judicial oath two days later. Stevens would stay on the Court for nearly 35 years, which was the third-longest tenure of any Justice. He became the Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1994. After Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in 2005, Stevens essentially served as acting Chief Justice until John Roberts joined the Court.

Although Stevens was a Republican and considered relatively conservative when he joined the Court, he shifted into the more liberal bloc of Justices as the Court grew more conservative. An open-minded thinker, Stevens proved willing to change his views over time. For example, he initially opposed affirmative action but later shifted to upholding these programs. Soon after joining the Court, Stevens voted to reinstate the death penalty, yet he came to regret this decision and eventually voiced a belief that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment.

Stevens wrote one of his most memorable opinions in the 1984 decision of Chevron v. NRDC, when he devised the standard for reviewing how government agencies interpret the laws that empower them. "Chevron deference" remains a pillar of administrative law today. Stevens also delivered a victory for environmentalists in Massachusetts v. EPA and shaped the doctrine of eminent domain in property law in Kelo v. New London.

Meanwhile, Stevens vigorously dissented in two of the most controversial cases that came before the Court in the early 2000s. He would have allowed the Florida recount to proceed after the 2000 presidential election, contrary to the ruling in Bush v. Gore that essentially handed the election to George W. Bush. Stevens also criticized the broad interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that became the basis for modern gun rights.

Stevens decided to leave the Court in 2010 after he stumbled over his words when he read his dissent in Citizens United v. FEC, a campaign finance case involving the First Amendment. When he retired on June 29, 2010 at the age of 90, he was the second-oldest Justice in Supreme Court history. Justice Elena Kagan replaced him on the Court. Stevens died on July 16, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Selected Opinions by Justice Stevens:

American Needle, Inc. v. NFL (2010)

Topic: Antitrust

Each NFL team is a substantial, independently owned, and independently managed business, and the teams' objectives are not common. When the teams formed an entity to develop, license, and market their intellectual property, that entity's decisions about licensing the teams' separately owned intellectual property were concerted activity and covered by Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

Padilla v. Kentucky (2010)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

A criminal defense attorney must inform a non-citizen client whether their plea carries a risk of deportation.

Arizona v. Gant (2009)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. U.S. (2009)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

An entity may qualify as an arranger under CERCLA when it takes intentional steps to dispose of a hazardous substance. Meanwhile, apportionment of remediation costs is proper when there is a reasonable basis for determining the contribution of each cause to a single harm.

Wyeth v. Levine (2009)

Topic: Health Care

State tort law claims, such as failure-to-warn claims, are not preempted by the FDCA with regard to prescription drugs, but they are an additional level of safeguards for consumers that complements the goals of the FDA.

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008)

Topic: Voting & Elections

Even rational restrictions on the right to vote are invidious if they are unrelated to voter qualifications, but even-handed restrictions protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process are permissible. A state law's burden on a political party, an individual voter, or a discrete class of voters must be justified by relevant and legitimate state interests sufficiently weighty to justify the limitation.

Massachusetts v. EPA (2007)

Topic: Role of Courts; Climate Change & Environment

Since greenhouse gases fit within the definition of “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of these gases from new motor vehicles. Also, a litigant to whom Congress has accorded a procedural right to protect their concrete interests can assert that right in federal court without meeting all the normal standards for redressability and immediacy.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

Even if a detainee at Guantanamo Bay is a dangerous individual who would cause great harm or death to innocent civilians given the opportunity, the executive nevertheless must comply with the prevailing rule of law in undertaking to try him and subject him to criminal punishment.

Illinois Tool Works, Inc. v. Independent Ink, Inc. (2006)

Topic: Antitrust

A patent does not necessarily confer market power on the patentee. Therefore, in any case involving a tying arrangement, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant has market power in the tying product.

IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez (2005)

Topic: Labor & Employment

When employees must don protective clothing on the employer's premises before they engage in the productive labor for which they are primarily hired, the time that employees spend walking between the changing area and the production area is compensable under the FLSA. However, the time that employees spend waiting to put on the protective gear is not compensable.

Kelo v. City of New London (2005)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

A city's decision to take property for the purpose of economic development satisfied the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment.

Gonzales v. Raich (2005)

Topic: Powers of Congress; Health Care

State laws permitting the medical use of marijuana do not prevent Congress from prohibiting its use for any purpose in those states under the Commerce Clause.

Smith v. City of Jackson (2005)

Topic: Labor & Employment

While the ADEA authorizes recovery in disparate impact cases, ADEA Section 4(f)(1) significantly narrows its coverage by permitting any otherwise prohibited action when the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age.

Illinois v. Caballes (2005)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has a right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Rasul v. Bush (2004)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

U.S. courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.

Groh v. Ramirez (2004)

Topic: Search & Seizure

When a warrant did not describe the items to be seized, the fact that the application for the warrant adequately described the items did not save the warrant.

Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C. v. Wells (2003)

Topic: Labor & Employment

The common-law element of control is the principal guidepost to be followed in deciding whether director-shareholder physicians in a medical clinic should be counted as employees for the purposes of the ADA. Factors to be considered in deciding whether a shareholder-director is an employee include whether the organization can hire or fire the individual or set rules for their work, whether the organization supervises their work, whether they report to someone higher in the organization, whether they can influence the organization, whether written agreements or contracts show that the parties intended the individual to be an employee, and whether the individual shares in the profits, losses, and liabilities of the organization.

Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc. (2003)

Topic: Trademarks

When the marks at issue are not identical, the mere fact that consumers mentally associate the junior user's mark with a famous mark is not sufficient to establish actionable dilution. (Dilution is a separate cause of action that allows the owner of a famous mark to prevent the use of similar marks in ways that harm consumer perception of the famous mark.)

Atkins v. Virginia (2002)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

Executions of mentally retarded criminals are cruel and unusual punishments prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (2002)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

A permanent deprivation of all use is a taking of the parcel as a whole, but a temporary restriction causing a diminution in value is not, for the property will recover value when the prohibition is lifted.

EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc. (2002)

Topic: Labor & Employment

An agreement between an employer and an employee to arbitrate employment-related disputes does not bar the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from pursuing victim-specific judicial relief, such as backpay, reinstatement, and damages, in an ADA enforcement action.

INS v. St. Cyr (2001)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The Suspension Clause of the Constitution, which protects the privilege of the habeas corpus writ, requires some judicial intervention in deportation cases. Habeas courts have answered questions of law in challenges to executive interpretations of immigration law and questions of law arising in the discretionary relief context.

Ferguson v. Charleston (2001)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A state hospital's performance of a diagnostic test to obtain evidence of a patient's criminal conduct for law enforcement purposes is an unreasonable search if the patient has not consented to the procedure.

Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The Constitution requires that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000)

Topic: Religion

A policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violated the Establishment Clause.

Chicago v. Morales (1999)

Topic: Due Process

Vagueness may invalidate a criminal law if it fails to provide the kind of notice that will enable ordinary people to understand what conduct it prohibits, or if it authorizes or encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Pfaff v. Wells Electronics, Inc. (1998)

Topic: Patents

The on-sale bar to patents applies when two conditions are satisfied before the critical date: the product is the subject of a commercial offer for sale, and the invention is ready for patenting.

Clinton v. City of New York (1998)

Topic: Separation of Powers

There is no constitutional authorization for the President to amend or repeal an Act of Congress.

Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L'anza Research Int'l, Inc. (1998)

Topic: Copyrights

The first sale doctrine endorsed in Section 109(a) of the Copyright Act is applicable to imported copies. (The first sale doctrine generally provides that the owner of a copy of a work may sell or dispose of the copy without getting permission from the copyright owner.)

Reno v. ACLU (1997)

Topic: Free Speech

Although the government has an interest in protecting children from potentially harmful materials, a law cannot pursue this interest by suppressing a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to send and receive if less restrictive alternatives would be at least as effective in achieving the law's legitimate purposes.

Richards v. Wisconsin (1997)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A no-knock entry is justified when the police have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence would be dangerous or futile under the circumstances, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime.

Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon (1995)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The definition of “harm” as an expansion of “take” in the Endangered Species Act includes habitat modifications that kill or injure wildlife.

U.S. Term Limits, Inc v. Thornton (1995)

Topic: Powers of Congress

Neither Congress nor the states may impose congressional qualifications additional to those specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

West Lynn Creamery, Inc. v. Healy (1994)

Topic: Powers of Congress

A state violated the dormant Commerce Clause when it imposed an assessment on all fluid milk (including milk produced out of state) sold by dealers to retailers in the state and distributed the entire assessment to in-state dairy farmers.

Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)

Topic: Abortion & Reproductive Rights

A requirement of notice to both parents of a pregnant minor before an abortion was unconstitutional because it was not reasonably related to legitimate state interests.

FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Ass'n (1990)

Topic: Antitrust

An agreement was not outside the coverage of the antitrust laws simply because its objective was the enactment of favorable legislation.

Marsh v. Oregon Natural Resources Council (1989)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

An agency must apply a rule of reason and prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement if there remains major federal action to occur, and if the new information will affect the quality of the human environment in a significant manner or to a significant extent not already considered.

Massachusetts v. Morash (1989)

Topic: Labor & Employment

A policy of paying discharged employees for their unused vacation time does not constitute an employee welfare benefit plan within the meaning of ERISA, and a criminal action to enforce that policy is not foreclosed.

Arizona v. Roberson (1988)

Topic: Miranda Rights

The Edwards rule applies to bar police-initiated interrogation following a suspect's request for counsel in the context of a separate investigation.

Keystone Bituminous Coal Ass'n v. DeBenedictis (1987)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

Since mine operators retained the right to mine virtually all the coal in their mineral estates, a burden placed on the support estate did not constitute a taking. (The support estate is not a separate segment of property for takings law purposes.)

INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca (1987)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The “clear probability” standard of proof for withholding of removal does not govern asylum applications.

Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson (1986)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A violation of a federal statute as an element of a state cause of action does not state a claim arising under federal law when Congress has determined that there should be no private federal cause of action for the violation.

Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp. (1985)

Topic: Antitrust

Although even a firm with monopoly power has no general duty to engage in a joint marketing program with a competitor, the absence of an unqualified duty to cooperate does not mean that every time that a firm declines to participate in a particular cooperative venture, that decision may not have evidentiary significance or may not give rise to liability in certain circumstances.

Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)

Topic: Religion

A state law authorizing a one-minute period of silence in public schools for meditation or voluntary prayer violated the Establishment Clause.

U.S. v. 50 Acres of Land (1984)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

“Just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment is normally measured by the market value of the property at the time of the taking.

Mills Music, Inc. v. Snyder (1985)

Topic: Copyrights

Congress did not intend to draw a distinction between authorizations to prepare derivative works that are based on a single direct grant and those that are based on successive grants.

NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma (1984)

Topic: Antitrust

A per se rule was not applied to an NCAA television plan that constituted horizontal price-fixing and output limitation, even though these restraints normally would be illegal per se, since this case involved an industry in which horizontal restraints on competition are essential if the product is to be available at all. (However, the plan still violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act under the rule of reason.)

Cooper v. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (1984)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A judgment in a class action determining that an employer did not engage in a general pattern or practice of racial discrimination against the certified class of employees does not preclude a class member from maintaining a subsequent civil action alleging an individual claim of racial discrimination against the employer.

Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC (1984)

Topic: Government Agencies

If a statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to a specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency's answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute. If Congress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, the regulation is given controlling weight unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute. If the legislative delegation to an agency is implicit, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation by the administrator of an agency.

Jefferson Parish Hospital District No. 2. v. Hyde (1984)

Topic: Antitrust

Tying arrangements need only be condemned if they restrain competition on the merits by forcing purchases that would not otherwise be made. A lack of price or quality competition does not create this type of forcing.

Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (1984)

Topic: Copyrights

The sale of copying equipment, like the sale of other articles of commerce, does not constitute contributory infringement if the product is widely used for legitimate, unobjectionable purposes, or is merely capable of substantial non-infringing uses.

Arizona v. Maricopa County Medical Society (1982)

Topic: Antitrust; Health Care

Horizontal agreements to fix maximum prices are on the same legal footing as agreements to fix minimum or uniform prices. More specifically, maximum fee agreements between medical societies and member doctors are per se illegal as price-fixing agreements under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

U.S. v. Ross (1982)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Police officers who have legitimately stopped a vehicle and who have probable cause to believe that contraband is concealed somewhere in it may conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle that is as thorough as a magistrate could authorize by warrant.

Beck v. Alabama (1980)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The death sentence may not constitutionally be imposed after a jury verdict of guilt of a capital offense when the jury was not permitted to consider a verdict of guilt of a lesser included offense.

Payton v. New York (1980)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the police from making a warrantless and non-consensual entry into the home of a suspect to make a routine felony arrest.

U.S. v. Caceres (1979)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The exclusionary rule does not require that all evidence obtained in violation of regulations concerning electronic eavesdropping be excluded.

Parker v. Flook (1978)

Topic: Patents

The identification of a limited category of useful but conventional post-solution applications of a mathematical formula does not make a method containing the formula eligible for patent protection.

Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland (1978)

Topic: Powers of Congress

Interstate commerce is not subjected to an impermissible burden simply because an otherwise valid regulation causes some business to shift from one interstate supplier to another.

National Society of Professional Engineers v. U.S. (1978)

Topic: Antitrust

The rule of reason, under which the proper inquiry is whether the challenged agreement promotes or suppresses competition, does not support a defense based on the assumption that competition itself is unreasonable.

Whalen v. Roe (1977)

Topic: Health Care

Requiring healthcare providers to store the private information of patients who receive prescriptions for drugs that can be illegally abused is permissible, despite the privacy rights of the patients.

Gregg v. Georgia (1976)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The punishment of death for the crime of murder does not, under all circumstances, violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (This decision ended the temporary moratorium on the death penalty imposed by Furman.)

Mathews v. Diaz (1976)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The fact that a federal law treats foreign nationals differently from citizens does not by itself imply that such disparate treatment is invidious. Congress has broad power over immigration and naturalization and regularly makes rules regarding foreign nationals that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens.