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Justice Stevens

The following tribute for our series on John Paul Stevens is by David Levi, dean of Duke Law School.  Levi clerked for Justice Powell during the 1981 Supreme Court Term.

In my era as a law clerk, it was customary for each of the Justices to take to lunch the law clerks of the other Justices, chambers by chambers.  In my recollection, Justice Stevens took the Powell clerks to the Monocle toward the end of the 1981 Term.  Having been a law clerk himself, he said to us words to this effect:  “Right about now, you may be feeling somewhat cynical about or disappointed in the Court.  But I want to tell you that once you have left here for a while and gone on to practice or teach, your respect for the institution will come back, perhaps even stronger than it ever was.”  I am happy to say that Justice Stevens was right, and, speaking for myself, his wonderful service on the Court is one of the reasons.  Others have commented on his contributions to legal doctrine, but what stands out for me, as a former federal judge, is his total dedication to the art and craft of judging.