Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, now 97-years-old, railed against the actions of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump in an interview with Law 360 released on Monday.
The conservative justice criticized McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans for blocking President Obama’s nominee to the High Court, Merrick Garland, calling it an “improper exercise” of power.
“He really should have been confirmed,” he said.
Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court by Obama in 2016 to fill the vacancy on the bench due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell refused to hold a vote on the nominee until the next president was elected later that year. After Trump became president, he nominated conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed earlier this year.
The retired justice added that Senate Republicans’ refusal to nominate Garland “makes the general public think that the institution is more of a partisan institution than it really is or should be.”
Stevens was nominated to the High Court in 1975 by Republican President Gerald Ford. Back then, nominees to the Supreme Court were rarely disputed and the process was much less partisan. Stevens was confirmed by a Senate vote of 98-0. Though he considers himself a Republican, Stevens would later join the liberal wing of the Court in many decisions.
The justice was also irked by Trump’s comments about the lower courts’ rulings on the travel ban, calling them “improper.”
“They’re improper comments,” he said. “And I don’t think whoever makes those comments is helping the institution or helping the public understand the correct role of the court or the importance or independence of the judges.”
It’s not clear which comments Stevens was specifically speaking about. Trump repeatedly lashed out at the courts on Twitter after they blocked his travel ban, saying they were “slow and political.”
Stevens also went as far to say that he disagreed with the travel ban itself.
“Of course the court has to consider the national security issues, but I don’t see the argument finding the danger to our security by allowing Muslims into the country,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to me that’s a very good test of how dangerous the immigrants are.”
Last Monday, the Supreme Court announced that they will hear the travel ban case this fall but would allow parts of the ban to go into effect immediately.