If Stevens left the court after a reasonable amount of time — say, after 18 years, during President Bill Clinton’s first term — he could have been replaced with someone equally compelling. Unfortunately, that person never had a chance to make his or her mark; Stevens and, frankly, most justices nowadays see themselves as lifers.
Monarchic tenures presume only a handful of Americans are capable of serving on the high court. Yet there are dozens of federal judges — not to mention elected officials, public defenders and other public servants — who have the capacity to craft thoughtful opinions and serve with distinction. Men and women holding on to their jobs until a president with whom they agree can appoint a replacement solidifies the perception that justices are merely politicians in robes. I’m pleased Stevens set such a consequential example in many areas — save this important one.
Gabe Roth, New York
The writer is executive director of Fix the Court, a national nonpartisan organization that
advocates judicial accountability.