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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens dies at 99

By Daniel Uria
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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens dies at 99
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (R), with President Gerald Ford and Justice Warren Burger in 1975. File Photo by David Hume Kennerly/William Fitz-Patrick/Gerald R. Ford Library
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July 16 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died at the age of 99 on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court confirmed that Stevens died at Holy Cross Hospital in Florida due to complications following a stroke he experienced on Monday.

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"He passed away peacefully with his daughters by his side," the Supreme Court said.

He is survived by his two children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

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Stevens served for 35 years on the Supreme Court after being nominated by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975. He was known for voting to limit the use of the death penalty, uphold affirmative action and broadening Roe vs. Wade.

Despite being nominated by a Republican, Stevens over his career on the bench issued multiple dissents that leaned away from his conservative colleagues.

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Stevens made a critical vote in the Bush vs. Gore case that halted the recount of Florida ballots in the 2000 election and allowed George W. Bush to win the presidency. Stevens lamented that the five judges who voted in favor of Bush would lend credence to the "most cynical appraisal" of the Supreme Court's work.

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"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 particularly clear," he wrote. "It is the nation's confidence in the judge as the impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Stevens remained engaged in politics after retiring from the Supreme Court in 2010, writing a New York Times op-ed in March of last year calling for an end to gun violence and a repeal of the Second Amendment. He stated that the Supreme Court's ruling that there was an individual right to bear arms, which he dissented, provided the National Rifle Association with a "propaganda weapon of immense power."

"Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the NRA's ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option," Stevens wrote.

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Born in Chicago on April 20, 1920, Stevens graduated from the University of Chicago in 1941 after his family's business went bankrupt during the Great Depression and his father, grandfather and uncle were indicted on charges of financial misconduct. He joined the U.S. Navy on Dec. 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked and spent World War II stationed in Hawaii as a signals intelligence officer.

After the war, Stevens graduated from Northwestern University's law school in 1947 and served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Wiley B. Rutledge for the 1947-48 term.

President Richard Nixon appointed Stevens to the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in November 1970 and he was nominated five years later to replace Associate Justice William O. Douglas on the Supreme Court.

Stevens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012.

"The president and the first lady offer their deepest condolences to the family and friends of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "A decorated World War II Naval Officer, Justice Stevens was known for his humility, legal acumen and affection for his beloved Chicago Cubs. His work over the course of nearly 35 years on the Supreme Court will continue to shape the legal framework of our nation for years to come. His passion for the law and for our country will not soon be forgotten."

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