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The Justices in 1975

As has been widely noted already, Justice John Paul Stevens ended his dissent in today’s school assignment cases by writing:

“It is my firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.”

Upon Justice Stevens’ appointment by President Gerald Ford, the Supreme Court in 1975 consisted of the following Justices (accompanied by the Presidents who appointed them and the years each served on the bench):

– (Chief) Warren Burger (Nixon, 1969-1986)
– William J. Brennan (Eisenhower, 1956-1990)
– Potter Stewart (Eisenhower, 1958-1981)
– Byron White (Kennedy, 1962-1993)
– Thurgood Marshall (Johnson, 1967-1991)
– Harry Blackmun (Nixon, 1970-1994)
– Lewis F. Powell (Nixon, 1971-1987)
– William H. Rehnquist (Nixon, 1971-2005)

We’ll never know if Justice Stevens’ assessment would have been true. But it is fair to say that one could reasonably debate whether then Justice Rehnquist would have opposed today’s opinion, given his votes against racial classifications in other Equal Protection cases – i.e. Bakke (1978), Adarand (1985), Metro Broadcasting (1990) and, most recently, Grutter (2003) and Gratz (2003).