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tv   Former Justice John Paul Stevens  CSPAN  July 20, 2019 12:07pm-1:01pm EDT

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view. national security came in second behind monitoring earth's environment windows survey were asked to select priorities for u.s. space policy. you can find more at >> on newsmakers, congressman derek kilmer of washington state shared the select committee on the modernization of congress. he talks about his legislative priorities. on sunday at 10:00. you can listen online on the free c-span radio app app. john paul stevens died this week. withoctober, he spoke frank serving out about politics , the constitution, and gerrymandering.
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he also talked about the kavanaugh confirmation hearing and how it compared with clarence thomas' confirmation. >> as i said, i am thrilled and delighted to see such a crowd this is a not-for-profit volunteer educational organization. at the unitarian universalist fellowship in boca raton. thank them for the use of the hall. c-span is here, so this is an historic occasion. i am tony laducca. you encountered several of the board members when you are checking in today.
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carol, whocknowledge is where? where are you, carol? our executive director. [applause] >> doing a lot of the heavy lifting associated with this. there are a couple of business items i want to address. photographs, recordings not permitted. we have already turned off the cell phones. ok. we are beginning our full the 15th. monday we have a open house scheduled 1:00ext week, the 10th, at at the boca raton community center, which is right near the city hall near palmetto. you have a program brochure on your seats when you came in that
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shows our full program for the eight-week session, which i think looks very exciting. those of you who are new, there are sign-up sheets that you can turn in when we are done. the business at hand. we are privileged, today, to have with us retired supreme court justice john paul stevens. [applause] he hasn't even said anything yet. [laughter]
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the origins of this event are traceable to paula challif, a member of our board as well. not incidentally, paula plays bridge with justice stevens. that is the basis whereby he comes to be here today. thank you, paula. the conversation will be moderated by frank, a familiar figure to many of you. frank started out in long island and graduated from the u.s. naval academy. he served in the navy. completed a journalism masters at northwestern university, began work in chicago and eventually came to south florida and joined the miami herald for several years and then he moved to the palm beach post where he has been writing a local news column for -- it says 2016 ears, frank. can it be? he also lectures at fsu and
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probably does other things i don't know about. anyway. [laughter] while justice stevens will have to leave immediately afterward, and i ask you to please give him some easy access of the aisle, frank has agreed to stick around if there is audience interest in doing that. no further delays. frank. [applause] can you hear in the back? we might need a microphone to pass around. are you okay? we will try it. i think we will need a mic. ok, we're supposed to be coming to the system. ok. my best experience with south
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florida audiences is they can never be too loud. but don't want to waste anymore time. this is a thrill for me, and it should be for all of you. there it goes. all right. it's my distinct honor to introduce retired supreme court justice john paul stevens. he is one of the living legends of american jurisprudence. it's true. [applause] justice stevens became the 101st supreme court justice after being nominated by gerald ford in 1975, and was swiftly confirmed by the senate in a unanimous vote. [laughter] that's not happening anytime soon. [laughter] later, while looking back at his presidency, president ford remarked he was prepared to allow history's judgment on his entire term in office to be
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rested if necessary exclusively on his nomination of justice john paul stevens to the supreme court. justice stevens joined the court when he was 55 years old. he served for 35 years. the third longest tenure of any supreme court justice in american history. on aaped public discourse variety ofng issues. from guantanamo to environmental regulation. whether it was flagburning, vote counting, or george carlin's seven dirty words, justice stevens' voice leaves us with a rich history of his fine mind and a compassionate human being. with a sense of duty that earned
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him a bronze star in world war ii as a navy codebreaker, and carried forward to the nation's highest coat theageage of 90, justice stevens has truly lived a life of public service. he continues to write about legal issues including an op-ed he wrote after the parkland massacre for the new york times entitled "repeal the second amendment." [applause] i guess we will have to talk about that and so many other things. everyone, please rise for a great american, a living legend in our midst, justice john paul stevens. [applause] so, how did i do? do you have a dissenting opinon
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ion on that? retired, one of the tv commentators called me a quitter. i explained that i had reasons for retiring. when i described my opinion on the citizens united case, which allowed unlimited donations in election campaigns, i gave a fairly long dissent. >> i think it was 86 pages. >> that is fairly long. i summarized it in less than that. i had some difficulty articulating what i was trying to say at the time, and i had some kind i
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of trouble that persuaded me i if i was going to have difficulty speaking and doing my work, i should quit. that is the reason why i became a quitter. i thought i would explain that from time to time, i still have problems articulating what i am do,ng to say, and if i please forgive me. i will do my best. i was going to talk about this later, but now that we are on the subject, florida requires its state judges to retire at the age of 70, which i guess in your case you were kind of just getting warmed up. what do you think about this notion that public service should have a cap? a lot of people have criticized and memberssenators of congress that have gone well
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into their 80's. do you think there should be a retirement age? >> i have never been in favor of that because i think very often the retirement requirement does cause the public to lose valuable years of service. it certainly serves the function whyroviding a reason for somebody has to move onto something else. discuss inwe should some extent what is going on lately with the supreme court and particular last thursday's senate confirmation hearing, which was broadcast live and watched quite as many americans as watched the super bowl. it was one of those events that captivated the nation's interest. my question for you, is this the best we can do as far as
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confirmation process where we had this very political process where everybody sort of gets in amps and this is a drama that is played out like a soap opera on television? >> no, i don't think it's the best we can do. we certainly should be able to do better because it is an issue of credibility that should be resolved on its merits, not on the basis of political speech back and forth. i should explain that with , iard to judge kavanaugh have a picture of him in my book. i have written a book called which iendment in recommend fundamental changes to our laws, and one of them is to reverse the citizens united case , which allows unlimited political contributions to candidates. [applause]
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feel as apparently some few do that my dissent had the right in that particular debate. in my book, i describe some of the reasons for the rule that i think should apply, and which beforely for many years that case. describeiscussion, i an opinion written by judge thenaugh on that very issue issue in the case was whether a canadian citizen and a citizen of israel living in new york temporarily could make expenditures in the elections that were going on at the time. united, theyizens brought a proceeding in the federal court asking for an injunction against enforcing the
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statute that prohibits expenditures by foreign cynicism's in american elections. judge kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding the statute and holding that they could be barred from making contributions to an american election. i thought he wrote a very persuasive opinion, and as a matter of fact, i put his picture in the book to illustrate my admiration for him. one of the cases he cited in that opinion was my dissent in citizens united, which i thought showed the fact that he is a very good judge, had very good character and taste in cases to follow. i forget what the point i was going -- in any event, at that
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the i thought he had qualifications to sit on the supreme court and should be confirmed if he was ever selected. i have changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability or his record as a federal judge. he is a fine federal judge, and he should have been confirmed when he was nominated, but i think that his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind. i think there were several commentators, larry shribe among them, a constitutional law professor at harvard, have written pieces in which they suggest that he has demonstrated
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a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibility. i think that there is merit in that criticism and that the senator should really pay attention to it for the good of the court. it's not healthy to get a new justice who can only do a part-time job. [applause] >> how is that different from the clarence thomas case? clarence thomas had a bruising confirmation session hearings in 1991. how did the other justices react to that and the fact that you had someone who was a polarizing figure in a body of people who are a collegial group of people?
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justice stevens: there are different answers to that. there was nothing in the hearings that disqualified him from sitting in cases after he came on the court. secondly, i don't remember any conflict in the testimony between him and anita hill. i think you could believe everything he said, and he may have acted unwisely and improperly without saying he would be disqualified from acting as an impartial judge or an honest judge. he turned out -- i disagree with him on most of his important rulings, but as a person, i am very fond of him. he is a very decent and likable person. you cannot help but like clarence thomas, which i don't think necessarily would be the true of this particular nominee.
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[laughter] >> you watched the hearings and people who have watched and followed his explanations of things in his yearbook, people have noted that some of the things he said under oath were at some level of being evasive or not true. is that, in itself, disqualifying when you swear to tell the truth before a congressional committee and get a number of facts wrong or mischaracterized? justice stevens: i'm not aware of any facts that he got wrong, that clarence got wrong. >> not clarence, i'm talking about justice kavanaugh. justice stevens: that is important, yes. >> is it disqualifying? justice stevens: not necessarily. in this case there have been
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enough people in categories where he would be unable to sit as a judge. >> you have been a gigantic proponent of the separation of the three branches of government. you almost didn't participate in the swearing-in of justice roberts because the george w. bush administration wanted that ceremony to happen in the white house, and you firmly believed it should happen in the supreme court. i want to talk about why you think the supreme court should not see themselves as aligned with any particular president. justice stevens: i really think it is important. in my particular case, gerald ford came to the supreme court -- he participated in the ceremony, which i thought was really appropriate because it is a supreme court ceremony, not a presidential ceremony.
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in my own case, everything went beautifully. for sandra day o'connor, ronald reagan came to the court, but in later cases, they decided to hold the swearing-in ceremony at the white house rather than the court. i think that sends an incorrect message. that this is a presidential event when it is not. the president should have nothing to do with it and no continuing influence of his nominee. i thought that was symbolically a mistake. i refused to attend probably four or five swearing-ins of my
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colleagues, david souter, ruth ginsburg, stephen pryor, they were sworn in at the white house. in each case, i didn't go. i did swear in john roberts because i strongly approved of the appointment. i thought he was an excellent appointment. i still think he is an excellent chief justice, even though i disagree with a number of his rulings. he is a very fine person. i thought that if i did not go to the white house on his swearing in, it would create an impression that he did not approve of the appointment, which was not true with the others. i did go to the white house and swear him in at that time. >> the obama appointments were held in the supreme court? justice stevens: yes. obama followed what i think is the correct practice in this regard. justice stevens wrote an opinion on a case that is somehow
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relevant. that was apologetic, bill clinton versus paula jones, where your opinion basically said that a sitting president is not immune from any civil prosecution or civil litigation and can be held accountable while serving as president. do you feel the same about a criminal prosecution? should there be immunity from a president participating in that? justice stevens: the fundamental rule that applies is that no one is above the law. no individual is above the law. i would assume that would apply to federal law in current times. you are not persuaded by the argument that the president's job is so important that to get bogged down in a criminal prosecution would make him not an effective president and that
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it should wait until he is out of office? justice stevens: the court hasn't faced that squarely, but i think it would be most unusual that would be a justification to postpone a trial. >> one of the decisions to which you were vociferously opposed was the bush v. gore decision. i don't think it got 86 pages but it was up there. i want to read you this and ask you this question. you wrote, it falls to the men and women of the judicial system that they are the true backbone of the rule of law. time will heal the wound inflicted by today's decision. one thing is certain, although we may never know with certainty the identity of the winner of
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this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is clear. it is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian in the rule of law. this is a strong statement. justice stevens: it's correct. [laughter] [applause] >> how have we done over the intervening 18 years? have we done much to repair the damage that was done in your mind, or has it gotten worse? has the court become even more political? justice stevens: i think it is worse. i regret to say it but i really do. i think that case was a terrible example of judicial behavior. if it could be erased and start over again, we should do so. one of the ironies about that case -- the election might have way because same
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they had a ballot in palm beach county that caused voters to mistakenly vote for -- they wanted to vote for buchanan -- >> they wanted to vote for gore, i think. that was the theory. but punched in buchanan. justice stevens: i think the studies showed that those particular ballots were sufficient in number to account for the total election in florida and the whole country. we now know what might have been the answer to the election. i don't think we have modified our lack of confidence in that decision. ironic, in all of the opinions written in that case, there is only one that explains why they
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granted a stay of the recount. the florida supreme court had ordered a recount throughout the state. the actual holding of the court was to enjoin the recount. >> you had one opinion that explained the reasoning. hon. justice stevens: the one opinion in the case was nino scalia's response to my dissent on the order to stay the recount, which should have been done on its own merits because it was of such importance. the answer to the request for a recount was there was no irreparable damage. there had to be irreparable damage to enjoin public action
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of that kind, and there was no showing of irreparable damage, and that was the debate between nino and me at the original stage. >> i love that you call justice scalia "nino." [laughter] justice stevens: well that is his name. >> you are also talking about justice scalia's teller decision in 2008. for the first time in u.s. history, it enshrined a person with an individual rights to have a firearm. you thought that was a disastrous decision. justice stevens: i did because it had been settled law throughout our history prior to that decision that the second amendment merely protected the right of a militia to have firearms. the reason they had that right was because shortly after the
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revolution, and in our early history, there was a fear that the national government might be too strong, and the state militias needed to be able to protect themselves with their own firearms. that certainly is not a common problem today as i am aware of anyway. so, not only is there a total absence of historical justification for giving the amendment its present interpretation, but it also doesn't really make any sense. it is out of harmony with the rest of the world. >> you suggested what some people say is a radical solution to that. i'm going to read what you wrote. "that decision which i remain convinced was wrong has provided the nra with a propaganda weapon of immense power. overturning that decision via constitutional commitment to get rid of the second amendment
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would be simple and would do more to stymie the nra's ability to weaken the lyrical debate and block gun-control legislation more than any other option. " you have proposed that the second amendment should be either eliminated or reworded to adding "when serving in the militia," we have 3 million guns million guns in america now. how is that practically going to turn the tide of what has been going on for decades? justice stevens: i don't know. i really don't know, but no problem is insoluble. if people made up their minds that the presence of guns does more harm than good, it seems to me they would be able to work
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out a way to confront the problem. >> i wonder if you have strong feelings on this. a lot of republicans seem to know how to get supreme court justices, you have to belong to the federalist society, and you get groomed in an orthodox way to adhere to their principles. the reason they do that is, in part, because of you. you were appointed by richard nixon to federal court and then gerald ford and turned out over 35 years to be a liberal. justice souther, nominated by george w. bush, another conservative, turned out to be as liberal as you. anthony kennedy, reagan appointee, turned out to be the biggest obstacle in roe v. wade and on gay marriage. why did you, suter, and kennedy, drift away from the orthodox
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views of the republican party? justice stevens: i have never been a political person of any kind. i am not conscious of changing my basic views. it was clear at the time that president ford would still appoint me. what has changed is a very large number of republicans. i really don't think all republicans are like donald trump. [laughter] >> you don't think so? if that's not true, why does the whole apparatus of the party get behind him?
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justice stevens: i don't know. >> that is an honest answer. ok. another case when people think about your long history, one of the cases brought up is the chevron versus nrdc. you created a legal standard that has lasted for decades. basically, the congress writes laws, and everything embodied in that law isn't spelled out, but federal agencies are interested entrusted to enforce those laws. you wrote that what the federal agencies decide in enforcement should be carried with the weight of the law and should be not be litigable by the court. for example, the epa interprets federal legislation and comes up with rules. if you are a polluter, you don't like the epa rules, but under your docket, there was a way to
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-- no way to go to court and change it. we are seeing that doctrine come under stress. justice gorsuch, and i assume if kavanaugh gets confirmed, he will be opposed to it. in the case of michigan in 2015, people are saying that doctrine of yours is fading away. i wonder if you feel like you need to defend it. justice stevens: yes. [laughter] >> why should it be defended? justice stevens: i think it is sound doctrine. when that case came before the court, it was my third or fourth year. sander was on the court at the time. >> 1984. justice stevens: 1984. when we discussed it at conference, there was disagreement about it. the court of appeals by ruth ginsburg had set aside an agency ruling.
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they, brennan and berger, among others, thought that was the right thing to do. that judges should look at the issue and decide what is right, not leaning one way or another, whereas, as it ended up in the case, when you're in doubt, you should defer to the agency view because they are experts in the field, and they have more knowledge of particular problems. in the long run, it makes more sense to back the agency to be the political spokesman for the point of view. we discussed it in the conference, and there was really disagreement among us.
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finally, byron white was the senior judge on the court, and he said, let's give it a try. write the opinion out that way and see how it comes out. i was not completely clear on my view at the time either. i did try my hand at writing the opinion, and i persuaded the entire court. it is the only time in my history on the court when i visited another judge's chambers to try to talk him into joining my opinion. [laughter] i did that to bill brennan. i finally persuaded him to join my opinion, and we ended up with the unanimous opinion that byron signed, but there was uncertainty in the court even after that discussion. the more i worked on it, the more i became convinced of the views set forth in the opinion,
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and i'm proud of the fact that we ended up with the unanimous view. in retrospect, i think it was dead right. it makes a lot of sense to give the people in the government who have most specialized knowledge in an area a preference, when in doubt, to go along with their view. i asked my law clerk to check for me. it has been cited, let me see, 15,900 times, cited with approval. it is now being subjected to criticism that it may be incorrect. the most important thing to me
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is that the doctrine of stare decisis should be protected when it has been cited for many years and never been disagreed with. the fact that they are even considering rejecting a case as well-established as it seems to be reflects on the court itself. i do think that the court is subject to criticism these days for failure to give adequate respect to existing decisions. >> that case was 1984, and you say it should be settled. roe v. wade was 11 years before that. hold fore decisis that, too? if the court finds a way to overturn roe, do you think that would be the activist court that some people complain about? justice stevens: i think that should be treated as federal law. that is what kennedy and o'connor and souther said in
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their joint opinion in the case several years ago. that is more important than whether the case was directly decided or not. i think that's right. there are some rules that ought to be accepted as part of the law and not re-examined over and over again. i think that is example of such a case. >> i want to bring up another case. in case you think justice stevens is a wild eyed liberal, we'll talk about the flag burning case, where justice stevens was in the minority against some of your good buddies, william brennan and thurgood marshall, basically writing it is said that it should be illegal to burn the flag.
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"the creation of a federal right to write graffiti on the washington monument might enlarge the market for free expression at a cost i would not pay. similarly, sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value, both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves, and for those who wish to use martyrdom by burning it. a country's flag is a symbol of more than nationhood and national unity, it also signifies the ideas that characterize a society that has chosen that emblem, as well as a special history that has animated the growth in power of those ideas." do you still feel that way today? in light of the protests we are now seeing by people protesting the treatment of black citizens by police officers, we see it at national anthems playing during nfl games, players kneeling and others suggesting it should not be permissible. is there a nexus between flag-burning and making that outlawed and disrespect during
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the playing of the national anthem? justice stevens: there are several questions there. >> yeah, you're right. i'm out. justice stevens: should the flag case be different? the answer is absolutely yes. one example in support of that position is that nobody burns flags anymore. it is not a common method of expression that has any usefulness to society. i think the symbolic importance of the flag was injured significantly by that decision and unnecessarily. i don't think it is, most anything and i think back to , world war ii, in those days the country was so united, you cannot imagine the complete
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agreement within the country about the war in europe and japan, largely as a result of the japanese attack on pearl harbor. the country really felt 100% we had to win the war, and we had to do it completely and in everything else. i think it was an important patriotic value in having a flag that is a symbol of unity for the country as a whole. i am still moved when i think about the issue. i do not think the refusal to respond at football games is at all comparable. i don't think they are the same issue.
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i have always felt very strongly about my dissent in that case and i would write it again. >> what do you think of the current protests during the national anthem? does that bother you as a patriotic american? justice stevens: i don't think so. that is not the same kind of dramatic as burning a flag in a public place like in a city in texas as they did in that case. [laughter] [applause] >> as long as we are talking about first amendment cases, i want to reference the george carlin case. george carlin famously did a routine of the dirty words you can't say over the air. he said it over the air, and the fcc sued the station. it was one of your early cases. you ruled in the majority that political speech is different from comedic speech.
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basically, if you're making political speech, you can use a lot of bad language, and the same case where somebody said "f the draft," or something like that, but that comedic speech for george carlin is at a different level of protected. justice stevens: one of the problems with that case is the broadcast was aired at a time that was available to children. that seemed to me to justify the particular rule that they applied in that case. you would still hold that today? justice stevens: i suppose so. the whole attitude toward indecent speech has become much more tolerant. maybe it not that big a deal anymore. we had a later case involving a related issue to that particular
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one in which i came out the other way. >> that is the other thing i wanted to talk to you about. you have had so much work and so many decisions. over 35 years, are there any where you say, i got that one wrong? i would like another chance at that one. justice stevens: there probably are. i don't think of any. [laughter] >> it doesn't bother you, at any rate. justice stevens: no. >> i'm sorry. i cut you off. justice stevens: you do the best you can with a particular case. you try to get it right. if you've done your best, you are pretty well satisfied. >> you have talked about cases that have bothered you, that you think have hurt this
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country. on the pecking order, would you put citizens united at the top? is there something else? i know you are big on gerrymandering and the problems it has created, and the elections and the lack of democracy we have in elections. where does that sit? justice stevens: gerrymandering is at the top because it is such a simple solution. racial gerrymandering is prohibited, but why political gerrymandering shouldn't have the same fate -- there is no real explanation for that. >> is there a way to do it without politics? we are letting elected officials to draw the district so that it benefits themselves. is there a better way? stevens: i have been thinking about writing a new york times piece based on the james comey book, the higher truth and so forth, basically
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when a legislator is asked to vote on a gerrymandered district, he should not vote for it. he should know that it is an improper district. it's like cheating at cards. some things you just don't do. you should not draw districts just to affect the outcome of elections. >> that happens though. justice stevens: that happens, but it shouldn't. if legislators thought about the consequences of what they were doing, sometimes they might stop and think, this is wrong. maybe that's silly. >> justice stevens, i think you have been out of political life for a few years. [laughter] no, it is a laudable thing to do, but some people have suggested that there be commissions, or even mathematical models, where you let a computer divide it up.
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justice stevens: any way to bring a neutral result would be fine. >> you mentioned reading james comey's book. what, in the course of a day, do you read? what are the kind of books you read for pleasure? i am assuming it is going to be a pg answer. what sort of books do you read? justice stevens: i'm just reading a book about the history of the country in which the first chapter is about the dual duel between alexander hamilton and aaron burr. it is an interesting story. >> you are a historian of the supreme court itself. you have known five supreme court chief justices of the supreme court. looking back, who is the most influential person in the court in this century?
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not this century, but since the 1900s. justice stevens: john roberts. he is by far the best chief justice. >> say it again? justice stevens: john roberts. >> that is a surprising answer for body you don't agree with. justice stevens: i don't, but he is a very fine man. you cannot help but like and admire him. 100% in his corner. >> you are both midwesterners. indiana, illinois. justice stevens: notre dame. >> notre dame mafia. other than the fact he is a likable guy, why is he effective as chief justice? justice stevens: he is a very efficient chief executive. he handles all matters that come to that office and require attention. he does a very good job. >> were you ever tempted to go
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back and contact your colleagues and give them your two cents on what is going on? justice stevens: yes. [laughter] i'm tempted, but i don't do it. >> that's great. justice stevens, it has been a pleasure talking to you. you are a wonderful gentleman and a treasure of the united states of america. we thank you for your service. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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[applause] >> justice john paul stevens died this week from congregations from a stroke in fort lauderdale, florida. he was 99 years old.
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c-span2 will have live coverage of the justice lying in repose monday. he will be buried tuesday at arlington national cemetery. beautiful. >> this week marks the 50th anniversary of the apollo 11 moon landing, and a new c-span poll shows that nearly a quarter of americans watched footage, live or recorded, of the landing. >> that is one small step for man, one giant the for mankind. >> tonight, the moonwalk. on sunday morning, coverage of the apollo 11 returning to earth and greetings from president richard nixon. i am the luckiest man in the world. i say this not only because i have the honor to be president and particularly because i have
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the privilege of speaking for so many in welcoming you back to earth. news coverage969 of the historic apollo 11 mission on c-span and announcer: robert mueller testifies to congress on wednesday about possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by president trump and russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. our live coverage starts at 8:30 a.m. eastern on c-span three, online at, or listen wherever you are with the free c-span radio app. before the hearing, listen to the complete mueller report at on your laptop or mobile device. audio intor report the search page. announcer: next, remarks by supreme court justice kagan.
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she talks about her disagreement with the court's decision in the gerrymandering cases, and the passing of retired justice john paul stevens. georgetown law center hosted this hour-long event. [applause] david: welcome, justice kagan. we are glad to have you here. justice kagan: it's great to be here. thank you to all of the members of the washington council of lawyers for all of the great work they do promoting pro bono and promoting public service. it is an and or mostly important -- an enormously important role in the legal profession so i thank you for what you do and i'm glad to be here. david: we are so delighted you are here and so delighted to cosponsor with the washington council.


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