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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Supreme Court Justice Stevens To Retire?

The Charlotte Observer published an article over the weekend about Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Many expect the Justice who is turning 90 to announce his retirement shortly. Justice Stevens has widely been known for his liberal viewpoints including his opinion that the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment. He recently wrote the majority opinion in Arizona v. Gant, an opinion that restricted police officers ability to search a persons car. This case affects the every day practice of a criminal defense lawyer. However, many opinions he authored or joined arguably supported a more conservative viewpoint, such as his opinion that burning the American flag is not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Supreme Court Justices rarely give interviews, speak to the press, or comment about cases beyond what is written in their opinions. President's Obama's State of the Union address was a rare moment where President Obama and Justice Alito publicly disagreed about a legal issue. I was given a wonderful opportunity while in law school to take a comparative constitutional law class taught by Justice Antonin Scalia. Agree or disagree with his views or opinions, everyone was impressed by the coherent nature and delivery of his legal arguments. All lawyers strive to make sound legal and factual arguments- the more difficult your case is, the more difficult it is to persuade a jury or a judge to make the decision favorable to your client. That, however, is what separates many attorneys from others. You must know the law and you must know the audience you are speaking to. You must know your case, your client and your ultimate goal.

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