But on many other issues, such as race discrimination, Stevens swung so far to the left that his earlier opinions would be unrecognizable as having been written by the same man.
In 1978, Stevens was not only in the majority in University of California Regents v. Bakke
, but he wrote the opinion holding that the school`s race-based admissions program violated Title VII and ordering the university to admit Bakke.
In another case of government race-based classifications, Fullilove v. Klutznick
(1980), Stevens ridiculed the idea of race-based "remedies" being applied to every ethnic group under the sun.
Adopting Justice William Rehnquist`s view that the specific history of blacks in America makes their claims unique, Stevens wrote: "Quite obviously, the history of discrimination against black citizens in America cannot justify a grant of privileges to Eskimos or Indians." (Remember when you could use terms like "Eskimo" and "Indian" without being accused of a hate crime?)
Unlike blacks, who were "dragged to this country in chains to be sold in slavery," Stevens said "the `Spanish-speaking` subclass came voluntarily, frequently without invitation, and the Indians, the Eskimos and the Aleuts had an opportunity to exploit America`s resources before the ancestors of most American citizens arrived."
Now fast-forward to 2003, when the court considered the race-based admissions policy at the University of Michigan. The school automatically awarded 20 points — one-fifth of the total points needed for admission -â€“ to every minority, including not only blacks, but also Hispanics, Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts.
This time, affirmative action for Aleuts was just peachy with Stevens, who came up with a ludicrous procedural objection to the lawsuit, basically concluding that no one ever has standing to sue for race discrimination in college admissions. I guess he figured it was time somebody did something about the University of Michigan`s long, shameful history of discriminating against Aleuts.
That`s quite a change from the Justice Stevens of Fullilove, who compared government affirmative action programs to Nazi policies, saying if the government "is to make a serious effort to define racial classes by criteria that can be administered objectively, it must study precedents such as the First Regulation to the Reich`s Citizenship Law of Nov. 14, 1935," translated in Volume 4 of "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression."
Whatever you think of Stevens` newfound admiration for government racial preferences, it`s preposterous to say, as Stevens did, "I really don`t think I`ve changed all that much."