Bush led his opponent, former Vice President Al Gore, by 537 votes when the Florida Supreme Court ordered state officials to continue a manual recount of votes cast. Bush immediately filed an application in the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to halt the recount.

Stevens calls the application “frivolous,” and recalls bumping into Justice Stephen Breyer at a Christmas party where the men discussed the application. “We agreed that the application was frivolous,” Stevens writes. “To secure a stay, a litigant must show that one is necessary to prevent a legally cognizable irreparable injury. Bush’s attorneys had failed to make any such showing.”

Nonetheless, on December 9, the Court granted the stay by a vote of five to four. On Dec. 12, the Court resolved the 2000 election. As Stevens puts it, “What I still regard as a frivolous stay application kept the Court extremely busy for four days.”

Stevens, now 91 years old, is speaking his mind in his new book “Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir,” covering his 35 years on the bench.


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