Last week I was privileged to attend the Ninth Annual Justice John Paul Stevens Award Luncheon on at Chicago’s Standard Club. This year the event was especially noteworthy because the awards namesake, Justice Stevens, was in attendance.
The award luncheon was started in 2000 by former law clerks to Justice Stevens. Justice Stevens has served on the Supreme Court bench for 33 years (he was nominated by then President Gerald Ford in 1975 to take the place of retiring Justice William O. Douglas), and is approaching the all-time record for service. The justice appeared well and delivered his remarks in a robust and strong-voiced delivery that could be associated with a much younger person.
The 88 year-old U.S. Supreme Court Justice spoke in depth about former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Justice Stevens is a Chicago native, and after clerking for a Supreme Court Justice, Stevens returned to Chicago to practice law. Upon his return Justice Stevens paired up with Richard J. Daley, a state representative at the time, to fight for integration and civil rights within Chicago’s law societies. Justice Stevens commended both Mayor Daleys for their efforts in Chicago.
In addition, Justice Stevens spoke about the legal definitions of words like “people” and “liberty” in the written law, the constitution and in opinions found in cases. How these words are interpreted shapes our understanding of the law in different settings.
Also honored was attorney John B. Simon, United States Court of Appeals Judge Ann C. Williams and Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald. All of the award recipients spoke about their legal careers and honored they were to have received the award bearing Justice Stevens’s name in his presence.
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