Decades before he would be nominated by President Gerald Ford to the U.S. Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens was a 12-year-old kid watching the Chicago Cubs play in the 1932 World Series.
It was Oct. 1, 1932, the third game of the series between the Cubs and the New York Yankees. It would be the same game where Babe Ruth allegedly called out where he would hit his next home run.
Stevens kept the scorecard from that game, but after Wednesday’s Chicago Bar Association luncheon, he’ll have one more item to place in his office: The 1932 pennant the Cubs flew over Wrigley Field for years to commemorate the season.
The flag’s presentation was one of the highlights at the 17th annual Justice John Paul Stevens Award Luncheon on Wednesday.
Another was when the crowd of 450 active and retired legal professionals gave the retired Supreme Court justice a standing ovation.
The moment prompted Stevens to reminisce about his attendance at Game 1 of the 1929 World Series, in which the Cubs lost 3-1 to the Philadelphia Athletics. They went on to lose the series in five games after the Cubs gave up 10 runs in a single inning in Game 4, blowing an 8-0 lead.
“The reference to the Chicago Cubs passes by one of the most disappointing days in my entire life,” he said
Stevens’ remarks came at the end of a luncheon honoring Chicago attorneys and judges who have shown the same public service and integrity Stevens showed in his decadeslong legal career.
“The Stevens Award is really the Hall of Fame of Chicago lawyers and judges,” said Charles F. Smith Jr., the president of The Chicago Bar Foundation and a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP.
The award was created in 2000 by Stevens’ former law clerks, the CBA and CBF. The award ceremony and luncheon was held at The Standard Club at 320 S. Plymouth Court.
Daniel M. Kotin, CBA president and a partner with Tomasik, Kotin, Kasserman LLC, noted in his remarks that this year’s ceremony had a “record crowd.”
Nine Chicago attorneys and judges received awards this year, each of whom weighed in on how Stevens, either personally or by example, impacted their professional careers.
For instance, George B. Collins, a partner at Collins, Bargione & Vuckovich, recounted a time he represented an associate before the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. The associate, who used to work with Stevens before Stevens became a high court justice, listed him as a character witness.
Stevens showed up to the hearing and testified to the associate’s good character, Collins said. When he left, the panel members looked to shake his hand. The associate was acquitted.
Two other award recipients — Thomas Anthony Durkin, a partner at Durkin & Roberts, and Joan Hall, a retired Jenner & Block partner — read aloud Stevens’ dissents from two cases — Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426 (2004), and Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000).
In Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the high court was asked whether Jose Padilla, who was deemed an unlawful combatant by the Bush administration, had rights under habeas corpus.
Durkin, who has represented alleged terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay and around the country, read Stevens’ words on the importance of due process in a democratic society.
Meanwhile, Hall told of Stevens’ lamentation of the judiciary losing its political independence as a result of the majority’s decision in Bush v. Gore.
“Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear,” Hall said, quoting Stevens’ dissent. “It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”
The other award recipients were: Brian L. Crowe, who previously served as the city of Chicago’s corporation counsel under Mayor Richard M. Daley; Thomas A. Demetrio, the founding partner of Corboy & Demetrio P.C.; J. Timothy Eaton, a partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP; Josie M. Gough, the director of experiential learning at Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Eileen M. Letts, a co-managing partner at Greene and Letts; and Joseph L. Stone, a clinical professor of law at Loyola law school.
For his part, Stevens recalled the importance of Miranda rights police officers give to criminal suspects as an extremely important case he had participated in.
Those rights, codified in a 1966 landmark Supreme Court decision, have benefited both the suspects and police officers, Stevens said.