Nina Totenberg

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, whose Supreme Court opinions transformed many areas of American law during his 34 year tenure, died at the age of 99 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., of complications following a stroke he suffered Monday.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Stevens' death in a statement from the Supreme Court.

On the U.S. Supreme Court, where nine justices often disagree but try to meld their views into majority decisions, one justice stands out.

Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving member of the current court — and its only African American — has views that perhaps can be described only as unique.

Some court watchers, however, use other terms: idiosyncratic, eccentric, provocative, thoughtful and, yes, wacky.

What was he thinking? That is the question many are asking on both sides of the political spectrum.

Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly voted with the Supreme Court's conservatives this term, except in one, and only one, 5-4 decision. Written by Roberts, the ruling blocked the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, leaving an angry President Trump desperately trying to find a way around it.

It also left a lot of speculation about the motives of the chief justice.

This past term, the Supreme Court decided cases dealing with thorny issues such as a citizenship question on the U.S. census, political gerrymandering and the separation of church and state.

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