September 25, 2007

Stevens goes courting

Jeffrey Rosen had a not-half-bad profile of Justice John Paul Stevens in this weekend's NYT magazine. As always, it's fascinating to get a rare peek into the inner workings of the Supreme Court--including this tidbit on how Stevens entices Anthony Kennedy to join the court's liberal voting bloc:

"When he is in the majority, Stevens is careful not to lose votes that start off on his side, often assigning the opinion to Kennedy when Kennedy seems to be on the fence. “Sometimes,” he told me, “in all candor, if you think somebody might not be solid” after casting a vote in conference, “it might be wiser to let that person write the opinion,” because after defending a position at length, people “tend to become even more convinced” than when they started... In other cases, Stevens has written the majority opinion himself in an effort to shore up Kennedy’s vote. [In one case]... by citing several of Kennedy’s previous opinions in his own opinion, Stevens persuaded Kennedy to stay in the liberal camp. "

All very shrewd, but is it really wise of Stevens to explain this to the Times? I imagine Kennedy is aware of Stevens's wily ways, but I can't imagine he'd take kindly to the fact that Stevens basically told the paper of record that he's been playing Kennedy like a piano.

Another nugget:

"[When he is in Florida, Stevens] swims every day in the ocean, plays tennis at least three times a week and plays golf two or three times a week...He tries to maintain this vigorous exercise schedule when he is in Washington, playing tennis two or three times a week... He is in such good physical shape that, in 2005, at age 85, he threw the first pitch at a Cubs-Reds game at Wrigley Field and got it right over the plate."

Every time I remember that Stevens is 89, I get anxious just thinking about some of the things that would happen if he were no longer on the court. Reading Rosen's piece, however, I feel quite relieved to think that Stevens gets a lot more more exercise than I do.