CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens answered questions yesterday about his tenure with the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2007 9th Circuit Judicial Conference at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle memories move justice
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens talks of his years here and Rice v. Cayetano
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens has fond memories of his first taste of Hawaii in the early '40s stationed at Pearl Harbor.
It was those early experiences and his law school background that influenced the most senior associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court when he wrote the dissenting opinion in Rice v. Cayetano.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, struck down the Hawaiians-only voting requirement for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees.
"They were adopting a rather formalistic approach to an issue that had particular significance in this particular area," said Stevens, in a rare public comment on the U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the OHA race to all Hawaii voters.
In his dissent, Stevens argued, "The court's holding today rests largely on the repetition of glittering generalities that have little, if any, application to the compelling history of the state of Hawaii."
Stevens, 87, the oldest and longest-serving member of the U.S. Supreme Court, having been nominated by President Gerald Ford, spoke yesterday at a private luncheon sponsored by the Hawaii State Bar Association. The brief question-and-answer session capped the 2007 9th Circuit Judicial Conference at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel.
Stevens was engaged in communications intelligence work at Makalapa while stationed here during the war, and had a chance two days ago to visit his old stomping grounds. "It was a very moving experience -- it brought back many memories," he said.
He and fellow officers were getting off work at about 7 a.m. one day and passing the Pearl Harbor Sub Base in their roadster when several panicked-looking Marines in dress uniforms posted on the street ordered them to pull over. A motorcade carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adm. Chester Nimitz went by a minute later.
When Stevens first arrived in Hawaii, there were blackouts at night, and they had to carry gas masks in containers. The containers became handy for stashing their towels and swimsuits, and they would go to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which had been converted for use by submariners as a changing facility.
One of the biggest thrills for serviceman at the time was to go to the famous Chinese restaurant P.Y. Chongs for the $3 or $4 steak special, he said.
A Stevens fan, law school student Mitz Takahashi could not believe her fortune when she was notified that a seat at the luncheon had opened up and that it was reserved for her. She said she found Stevens to be extremely personable and down to earth.
She apparently made known her respect for Stevens when she and five other clerks working at the Cades Schutte law firm this summer were asked whom they would want to have lunch with if they could.
She sat next to Stevens' table during the luncheon and afterward was the one of the first in line to grab a photo with him. She also secured his signature on a copy of his dissenting opinion in a case involving First Amendment rights regarding free speech in public schools.
"Justice Stevens is very protective of our constitutional rights," she said.
The majority had ruled in that case that a principal did not violate a student's right to free speech when she confiscated a banner that she viewed as promoting drug use.