Harvard professors voiced mixed reactions yesterday to President Ford's nomination of Judge John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice William O. Douglas, who retired November 12 because of poor health.
"I'm not one who looks for a great legislator on the Supreme Court," Raoul Berger, Warren Fellow in American Legal History, said yesterday. Berger said that he preferred "a sound lawyer," and that he has respect for Stevens's legal experience.
Stevens, who is 55, is the Federal Appeals Court judge for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, a post to which President Nixon appointed him in 1970. Before that, he practiced law after serving as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge.
"It would be a mistake to describe him as ideologically doctrinaire," Laurence H. Tribe '62, professor of Law, said yesterday. Tribe called Stevens's court opinions "elegant, insightful, and carefully reasoned."
Stevens's decisions show a "refreshing struggle for just results," Tribe said.
None of the Law School faculty contacted yesterday, however, said that Stevens's appointment would significantly change the policies of the Supreme Court. Vern Countryman, Royall Professor of Law, said President Nixon's four appointments to the high court have already created the most important changes. "This just puts the nail in the coffin," he said.
Jerome A. Cohen, associate dean of the Law School, said Stevens is "about as good a choice as one could expect from Ford." Linking Douglas's retirement and the "loss of very interesting justices" in recent years, Cohen said, "I don't want them to be replaced by an entire generation of able craftsmen who aren't able to walk that last mile."