With Senate confirmation hearings for his replacement candidate to take place sometime this summer, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the vast imprint Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has had on American life. What’s truly remarkable is not simply the fact that he was a coalition builder on the bench itself (a tall order these days), but that his list of supporters and admirers outside the walls of the Supreme Court is just as diverse.
A recent piece in The New England Journal of Medicine caught my attention. In it, George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H., suggested that Justice Stevens will be missed by physicians and patients for his strong belief that the Constitution prohibits government from interfering with personal decision making in medical decisions.
Mr. Annas went to great lengths to praise Justice Stevens’s fidelity to the rule of law and his meticulous study of the facts of every case that came before him. Justice Stevens, through his painstaking research, became extremely knowledgeable about the practice of medicine. A thorough understanding of not only the law, but also the lives and practices that the law affects, makes for a great Justice.
Mr. Annas’s point was that with the Court likely to be asked to address the Constitutionality of the new health care reform law, "Justice Stevens’s strong voice for protecting the physician–patient relationship and promoting the rule of law should serve as a model for current and future justices."