Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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Another Change at the Supreme Court

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 11, 2010

Justices on the United States Supreme Court are appointed for life.  And as a group, they have shown remarkable longevity. But more than a few have voluntarily retired.  The only Justice to hail from Pittsburgh, George Shiras, pledged to resign in ten years when appointed by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892.  He kept that promise.

The resignation of John Paul Stevens comes 35 years after his appointment by Gerald Ford.  That is a long time on the court — about as long as the great Chief Justice John Marshall who was appointed by John Adams as he was literally leaving office in 1801. Marshall would serve into the Jackson presidency, long after his Federalist Party had ceased to exist.

Stevens was not the longest serving member of the Court. That would be William O. Douglas, the “Liberal Lion” who authored a lion’s share of the most important opinions of the 20th Century. His tenure on the Court was almost 37 years. Stevens replaced Douglas in 1975 and that might have been on his mind when he first announced retirement.  If Stevens didn’t retire soon, in a couple of years he would surpass Douglas in longevity on the Court.  Is that what a man like John Paul Stevens would want to do?  I don’t think that he would.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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