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Stevens' SCOTUS tenure will tie for 2nd place


What a difference a day makes.

Followers of the U.S. Supreme Court pay close attention to tradition and seniority, including the length of time the justices serve. So here's something worth noting: When John Paul Stevens wrote to President Obama in April, disclosing his plans to leave the court, he said his retirement would become effective "the next day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year."

We now know that the court's last day for handing down opinions will be this Monday, June 28. Once that's done, it will rise for the summer recess. So the retirement of Justice Stevens will become effective the next day -- Tuesday, June 29. That means he will leave in a tie for second-longest service in Supreme Court history -- 34 years, six months, and 11 days, the same as Stephen Field, who left the court in 1897.

If he had stayed just one more day, he would achieve the distinction of having the second-longest serving record all to himself (William O. Douglas, who served for 36 years, is in first place). It's doubtful Stevens realized that when he wrote his letter to President Obama in April. But he has apparently not changed his plans.