Just How Senile Was Justice Stevens?
April 10, 2010, 08:23 PM
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Justice John Paul Stevens, who will turn 90 in ten days, finally announced his retirement from the Supreme Court.

How senile was he? Well, here's an excerpt from his 2005 opinion in a case striking down a California policy first instituted in 1979 that new prison inmates have only roommates of the same race for the first 60 days while the system checks on whether they have a history of racist gang violence. The 84-year-old Stevens scoffed at the testimony of a veteran prison official:

"One of these [California] officials, an associate warden, testified as follows:
'[W]ith the Asian population, the control sergeants have to be more careful than they do with Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics because, for example, you cannot house a Japanese inmate with a Chinese inmate. You cannot. They will kill each other. They won’t even tell you about it. They will just do it. The same with Laotians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Filipinos. You have to be very careful about housing other Asians with other Asians. It’s very culturally heavy.
"Such musings inspire little confidence. Indeed, this comment supports the suspicion that the policy is based on racial stereotypes and outmoded fears about the dangers of racial integration. This Court should give no credence to such cynical, reflexive conclusions about race. ...

[I]ntegrated cells encourage inmates to gain valuable cross-racial experiences…"

Uh ... yeah ...

Obviously, Stevens sounds completely gaga here.

And, yet, he sounds no more senile than practically every other public figure in our society when it comes to writing about race.

Kinda hard to tell, isn't it?