From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THE FIVE CHIEFS:"
Informative and very appealing....It's classic justice Stevens: understated and generous to those he differs with, but absolutely clear on where he believes justice lies."
- Adam Cohen, Time"
Laced with observations on the court's architecture, traditions and even its seating arrangements, it is the collected ruminations of a man who has served his country in war and peace, across the decades... His memoir is as gracious as its author and a reminder that Stevens is more than a longtime member of the nation's highest court. He is a national treasure."
- Jim Newton, Los Angeles Times"
An important addition to American history....At its core, the book is not just another memoir from yet another judge. It marks instead the end of an era on the Supreme Court and in the broader swath of American law and politics."
- Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic"
Coming from the last of a dying breed of jurists who genuinely believe you can learn something from everyone if you just listen hard enough, it is a lesson in how, at the Supreme Court, civility and cordiality matter more, even, than doctrine."
- Dahlia Lithwick, Washington Post
The former Supreme Court justice proposes constitutional changes to restore the old republic. Provocative only begins to describe Stevens' (Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir, 2011, etc.) program. Perhaps the most controversial is the constitutional amendment that, after surveying the history of amendments generally, he saves for last—namely, to rewrite the Second Amendment so that it indisputably speaks to the intention of the Founders: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed." The italics are Stevens'—the strongest reaction to this proposed change is sure to come from devoted NRA members. In fact, that change would likely spell political suicide if forwarded by a sitting elected legislator, but Stevens, retired from the bench for several years, is above the fray. He can therefore safely advance another likely nonstarter, given the prevailing circumstances: another amendment, this one prohibiting partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, which allowed the Democrats to win the plurality of votes but the Republicans to control the House in the last election. Though clearly of blue-state leanings, Stevens is evenhanded: He no more approves of Democratic gerrymandering than Republican. The author's prose is sometimes lawyerly, but more often, it is plain and to the point: "[T]here is no reason why partisans should be permitted to draw lines that have no justification other than enhancing their own power." That plain talk extends to his arguments for limiting money given to those in power—overturning Citizens United in the bargain—and controlling states-rightist impulses to nullify federal authority and declare sovereign immunity. A refreshing set of opinions. One wishes that other retired justices would speak their minds so clearly, providing well-crafted arguments for others to take up.
Stevens (Five Chiefs), the liberal Justice who retired in 2010, aims "to avoid future crises before they occur" with his new book, which proposes a half-dozen changes to the Constitution that would "nullify judge-made rules" endorsed by the Court's powerful conservatives. Two of Stevens's proposed corrections tackle constitutional issues that are largely impenetrable to the layman. One would help state officials enforce federal law when in response to disasters. The other would eliminate sovereign immunity which currently allows states and related agencies and officials to avoid civil or criminal charges. Stevens wants to eliminate gerrymandering, which would prevent any one political party from using geographic jujitsu to gain or maintain political power. He suggests modifying the Citizens' United decision that underscores corporations' right to donate to political candidates. His most provocative arguments address the death penalty and gun control. He dismisses retribution as an anachronism and underlines the problem of "fallibility" of executing innocent people. As for the Second Amendment, he argues that private ownership of guns is permitted only "when serving in the militia." Stevens's deceptively slim volume packs a wallop as it illuminates current controversies in constitutional law. (Apr.)