Northern Illinois University Press


John Paul Stevens

An Independent Life

Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman

“Terrific.” —Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine

“John Paul Stevens’s judicial philosophy may be hard to label but his integrity is rock solid. A lifetime in the law and the courage to speak his mind (see Bush v. Gore) make him a national treasure on our highest court.”—Richard J. Durbin, United States Senator

“In rich detail, John Paul Stevens tells the story of a Navy veteran, lawyer, judge, and justice who has shaped American law for over three decades. It is a valuable window in Justice Stevens’s often-unpredictable understanding of the Constitution and the law.”—John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former White House Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton

Justice John Paul Stevens has proudly earned the title of the Court’s most prolific dissenter. In this impeccably researched book, journalist Bill Barnhart and retired lawyer and former legislator Gene Schlickman offer the first biography of this free-thinking man.

To provide a nuanced and multifaceted look at the justice, Barnhart and Schlickman interviewed not only Stevens but also an extraordinary number of his friends and family members, former clerks, current colleagues, politicians, and court watchers. They spoke with such public figures as former President Ford, former Ford Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Beyond the tales of growing up in an affluent family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood—which create a rich portrait of the independent spirit who would rise to one of the most important positions in the country—careful consideration is given to Stevens’s career. Barnhart and Schlickman trace his early years as a Chicago lawyer, his appointment to the federal appeals bench in Chicago, and his ultimate nomination to the Supreme Court by Republican President Ford. They examine his best-known opinions, including his emotional dissents in Texas v. Johnson, Bush v. Gore, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and his growth as a molder of Court decisions. In an era of an increasingly politicized judiciary, the story of Stevens’s life is an urgent reminder of the importance of judicial impartiality and the need to cultivate it.

(2010) 325 pp., 43 illus.
ISBN 978-0-87880-419-4
cloth $26.95

Bill Barnhart was a columnist and editor for the Chicago Tribune for nearly 30 years. He is the co-author, with Gene Schlickman, of Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights, the biography of former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. He lives in Chicago’s Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood.

Gene Schlickman is a retired lawyer and legislator who represented the northwest suburbs in the Illinois General Assembly for eight terms. He lives in Beverly Shores, Indiana.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-419-4
John Paul Stevens $26.95