It was quite a morning for the First Amendment at the Supreme Court, as the justices handed down a major church-state decision and heard oral arguments in a case testing issues of free speech, the right to petition and the right of privacy.

It was a historic morning for another reason: barring the unforeseen, it was Justice John Paul Stevens’ final day of hearing oral argument as a justice. From now until the Court adjourns at the end of June, the justices will hand down decisions in already-argued cases but will not sit to hear new arguments. By the calculation of John Barrett, professor at St. John’s University School of Law, Stevens probably saw his first oral argument on Oct. 13, 1947, the first day of arguments when he was a law clerk for Justice Wiley Rutledge — more than 62 years ago.

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