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If U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens were facing a criminal trial he would want his colleague, Justice David H. Souter, to preside, he said recently at the closing session of the 9th Circuit’s annual judicial conference in Honolulu. Stevens was quick to interject that he wouldn’t worry about any of the other justices presiding. The lively and often humorous account of his years on the court provided some insights into the last session’s rulings as well as other justices on the court. Souter, who rarely makes public speeches or television appearances, has a right to remain a mystery, said Stevens. “We say a lot in our opinions � more than most of you are willing to read.” Other justices, who regularly give speeches, sometimes don’t like to have them televised because they are “canned” and repeated, something, Stevens says, he does not do. Chief Judge Robert Lasnik of the Western District of Washington in Seattle suggested that Justice Antonin Scalia might be happy to lend Stevens one of his speeches. Stevens replied, “Yes, but at the end I would have to say, ‘I dissent.’ “ At 87, Stevens, appointed by President Gerald Ford in December 1975, is the longest-serving justice on the court. Asked if he has someone who will tell him if his abilities falter and he has served too long, Stevens quipped, “Yes. And he is apt to do it when I dissent from one of his decisions.” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ dubious record of a 90% reversal rate last session, with 19 of 21 rulings reversed, is “misleading” and does not reflect where it really stands, Stevens said. He pointed out that in the Seattle schools case, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, 127 S. Ct. 2738, the 6th and 1st circuits had ruled similar to the 9th Circuit. The justices ruled that school districts can’t make student assignments based solely on race. As for concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court may be singling out the 9th Circuit for special attention, “Not in my chambers,” he said. He could not be as certain whether other justices keep a closer watch on what the 9th Circuit produces. Stevens also suggested that with just 73 opinions issued last session, the court may be “taking fewer cases than we should. But if the rate was at a level of 150 cases a year, as it was in the past, I would have left the Court long ago,” because the workload would be too overwhelming. Stevens said he does not think his judicial philosophy has changed over the years, and that he has looked at some of his old opinions from his days on the 7th Circuit and found them consistent with his writings today.

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