“What really for me marks a conservative judge is one who doesn’t decide more than he has to in order to do his own job,” he said, relaxed in shirt sleeves and his signature bow tie in chambers floodlit by April sunshine. “Our job is to decide cases and resolve controversies. It’s not to write broad rules that may answer society’s questions at large.”
He is known for his fast and prolific writing, and for relying less on his law clerks than some other justices do.
“I write the first draft,” he said. “One of the tests I had for myself as to when I would retire was that if I ever got to the point that I stopped writing the first draft that would be a sign that I was no longer up to the job the way I think it should be done.”
That day, he said, has not yet come. “Everything that’s got my name on it, I wrote the first draft,” Justice Stevens said.