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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE The Retirement of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun: Statement of ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro For IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 6, 1994 NEW YORK -- With today's announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the country has lost an important defender of individual liberties and civil rights. Best known for his landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun has been a forceful advocate for the rights of the less powerful. Although appointed by a conservative president, Justice Blackmun has evolved into a jurist who recognizes the important role that government must play in promoting equality, and the dangers inherent in government efforts to control the private lives of American citizens. Refusing to be bound by ideological labels or legal formalities, Justice Blackmun understands that "in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently," as he wrote in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, an early affirmative action case. He also vigorously dissented from the Court's decision in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold consensual sodomy laws, writing, "what the Court really has refused to recognize is the fundamental interest all individuals have in controlling the nature of their intimate associations with others." Similarly, in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Justice Blackmun wrote the first opinion to recognize that commercial speech is entitled to First Amendment protection. Expressing his deeply held belief in the wisdom of the average citizen, Justice Blackmun observed that "people will perceive their own best interests if only they are well enough informed, and that the best means to that end is to open the channels of communication rather than to close them." Justice Blackmun's commitment to justice was demonstrated most recently by his announcement that he would no longer vote in favor of the death penalty because he was convinced that it could not be administered fairly. His statement of conscience now stands in stark contrast to the increasing clamor for the death penalty that so frequently marks today's political debate. Justice Blackmun's contribution to the Court, often made at great personal sacrifice, will not be easily replaced. His integrity, his courage, his humanity and his personal grace will be genuinely missed. ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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