Katie Couric's Notebook: Justice Stevens

"At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society."

Those were Justice John Paul Stevens words in an opinion about terror suspects having the right to challenge their treatment in court.

The oldest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens announced today he will step down - just eleven days shy of his 90th birthday.

He was chosen by a Republican, President Gerald Ford, but would later side with the Court's liberal bloc on issues like civil rights and abortion. He also opposed flag burning...and as a proud World War II veteran was an outspoken patriot - qualities that made him a good negotiator with swing voters like Sandra Day O'Connor.

Any nominee President Obama chooses to replace Justice Stevens could face a rocky road to confirmation - given the nasty political climate these days.

But for now, let's just focus on wishing Justice Stevens well, and thanking him for almost 35 years of service to the free society he loves.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.