Justice Stevens’ Most Influential Opinion

In today’s LA Daily Journal (subscribers only), your blogger looks over Justice John Paul Stevens’ career (with the help of constitutional scholars who know a lot more than he does) and comes to the following conclusion:

When Justice John Paul Stevens steps down from the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the term, the opinion he wrote that will leave the biggest imprint is one of which most Americans are wholly ignorant.

Despite his almost 35 years on the bench, Stevens didn’t actually write many major opinions, constitutional law scholars say. On a practical level, it is a 1984 opinion laying out how courts should decide whether government agencies are correctly implementing the law and to what extent they have the ability to interpret congressional statutes that is his most influential. Chevron v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837.


The Chevron “two-step test,” as it is known, is now a key part of administrative law and is Stevens’ most cited opinion “by a mile,” according to former Stevens clerk Joseph Thai, a professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Law.

(another snip)

Stevens concluded the government’s actions were reasonable because the statute was ambiguous. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine School of Law, described the case as “a tremendously important doctrine.”

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