NLADA honors retired justice

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is presenting its first Lifetime Achievement Award to retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Stevens will accept the award and give remarks at the NLADA Exemplar Dinner and Reception on Wednesday, October 6 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. 
He will be honored along with Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, who will receive the 2010 NLADA Exemplar Award for his pro bono service.
“Justice Stevens has inspired generations of lawyers as a guardian of the Constitution’s guarantees of liberty and equality,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, president and CEO of NLADA. “It is an honor and a privilege to recognize Justice Stevens for a lifetime of deliberate and unwavering commitment to justice for all people, regardless of race, color, creed or income and to name the NLADA Lifetime Achievement award in Justice Steven’s honor” Stevens received his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and began his legal career in 1947 by serving as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge.
Following his clerkship, he returned to Chicago and entered private practice with the firm that would eventually become Jenner & Block.
In 1969, the Greenberg Commission named Stevens as their counsel during the investigation of corruption by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justices Ray Klingbiel and Roy J. Solfisburg, Jr.
Stevens role’ on the Commission gained him wide notoriety leading him to the appointment of Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1970.
In 1975, President Gerald Ford nominated Stevens as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Justice William O. Douglas. He was confirmed 98-0 by the Senate.
Last June, after more than 34 years, Justice Stevens retired as the third-longest serving justice in the court’s history and the oldest member of the court.
In announcing the award, MLADA noted that, throughout his nearly 35 years on the bench,  Stevens “maintained a moderate voice that championed civil rights issues, the death penalty and the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Stevens’ opinion for the Court in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which reversed a 13-year precedent to outlaw the execution of mentally retarded citizens, is largely thought to have set the stage for the eventual abolition of the juvenile death penalty.”
The organization also noted that  Stevens’ views on affirmative action and integration in schools changed during his tenure and he declared in 2007 that “children of all races benefit from integrated classrooms and playgrounds.”
NLADA also said that, in a decision involving national security, Stevens crossed the traditional liberal-conservative divide by writing two of the most important judgments, Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).
The judgments stressed the court’s duty to ensure fair treatment for those viewed most unfavorably in our society, even when national security is at issue.
Stevens went on to say “[I]f this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.”