Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens criticized President Donald Trump’s public commentary on the travel ban litigation in an interview this week, and expressed skepticism about its legality.
Stevens, who retired in 2010 and was succeeded by Justice Elena Kagan, gave an interview to Law360, in which he said the president’s tweets and public statements about the ongoing travel ban litigation is harmful to the courts.
“I don’t think whoever makes those comments is helping the institution or helping the public understand the correct role of the court or the importance or independence of the judges,” he told Law360, adding that he found the president’s comments “improper.”
He also expressed skepticism of the order’s legality.
“Of course the Court has to consider the national security issues, but I don’t see the argument finding the danger to our security by allowing Muslims into the country,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to me that’s a very good test of how dangerous the immigrants are.”
A 2015 study that appeared in the Wall Street Journal found that former President Barack Obama commented on cases pending before the high court more frequently than any other president in modern history. He offered lengthy opinions as to how the court should rule in cases concerning campaign finance, the Voting Rights Act, and the Affordable Care Act. He was criticized in many quarters for inappropriate ex parte remarks.
“[T]hey are violating this very strong norm of judicial independence, that presidents and other political actors shouldn’t get involved,” one of the study’s principal authors told the WSJ.
It is not clear if Trump’s judicial commentary has surpassed Obama’s in frequency.
Stevens first joined the high court in 1975, making his tenure on the Court the third-longest in American history. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford. He recently met Trump briefly during the investiture of Justice Neil Gorsuch.
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