How long will Stevens remain on the Court? Good genes (one of his older brothers practiced law until he was ninety-one), a happy home, plenty of exercise, and even more luck could allow Stevens to keep up the fight into his tenth decade. Last December, he had lunch with Peter Isakoff, a Washington lawyer who was one of his early Supreme Court law clerks. “He had just played tennis that morning—singles!—and I was just kind of amazed,” Isakoff recalled. “And so I asked him, ‘Do you still run?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Well, how else are you going to get to the ball?’ ”
With the election of Barack Obama, the question of Stevens’s retirement has become more pressing. Even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican President, many assume that he would never willingly have turned his seat over to George W. Bush. I asked Stevens about his plans.
“Well, I still have my options open,” he said. “When I decided to just hire one clerk, three of my four clerks last year said they’d work for me next year if I wanted them to. So I have my options still. And then I’ll have to decide soon.” On March 8th, he told me that he would make up his mind in about a month.
“You can say I will retire within the next three years. I’m sure of that.”
My guess is that it will happen sooner rather than later, possibly this year.
Interestingly, Stevens also weighs in, sort of, on the continuing war of words between the White House and Chief Justice Roberts over the State of the Union:
He will not be seen again, under any circumstances, at a State of the Union address. “I went to a few of them when I was first on the Court, but I stopped,” Stevens told me. “First, they are political occasions, where I don’t think our attendance is required. But also it comes when I am on a break in Florida. To be honest with you, I’d rather be in Florida than in Washington.”
Sounds like an idea the whole Court should adopt.