Supreme Court


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Other Politicians     Senators & Representatives        Presidents

Henry Baldwin Hugo L. Black John Blair Jr. Samuel Blatchford
Harold H Burton James F. Byrnes John Catron Thomas C. Clark
John H. Clark William Cushing Willis Van Devanter William O. Douglas
Oliver Ellsworth

Stephen J. Field

John M. Harlan Robert H. Jackson
Joseph  Lamar John Marshall Thurgood Marshall Thomas Mathews
Sherman Minton William H. Moody Samuel Nelson William Paterson
Mahlon Pitney Stanley F. Reed Wiley B. Rutledge Potter Stewart
Thomas Todd Robert Trimble Frederick M. Vinson Earl Warren

Noah H. Swayne

Levi Woodbury

William B Woods



Noah H. Swayne

Noah Swayne was the first of Lincoln's five appointments to the Supreme Court. Swayne satisfied Lincoln's criteriaPortrait of Noah Swayne for appointment: commitment to the Union, slavery opponent, geographically correct. Swayne's left his native Virginia at age 19 because he was hostile to slavery. He settled in Ohio and later served there in the state legislature. He was appointed United States Attorney for Ohio by President Andrew Jackson. He retained his opposition to slavery and joined the newly created Republican party in 1855. Swayne's close personal friend was Justice John McLean who suggested that Lincoln appoint Swayne as his successor. When McLean died, Swayne mustered support for the appointment to his friend's position. Swayne was an undistinguished justice. He wrote few major opinions and served as an extra vote in important majority and dissenting positions articulated by others. He stayed well beyond his time; he deteriorated mentally and physically while still on the bench. Though he lacked intellectual leadership, Swayne coveted the position of Chief Justice. He campaigned aggressively and unsuccessfully for the spot in 1864 and in 1873. Return to Last Page



William B. Woods

William Burnham Woods grew up in central Ohio and attended Western Reserve College. He graduated from Yale in Portrait of William B. Woods1845 and two years later passed the Ohio bar. He practiced law in his hometown of Newark, Ohio where he also served as mayor. From this political perch, Woods was elected to the state legislature and was soon chosen its Speaker. Woods was a committed Democrat and resisted the growing Republican tide. At first, he opposed the Civil War but then acknowledged the necessity of a Northern victory. He joined the Union army and participated in the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg. After the War, Woods settled in Alabama where he returned to law practice and took up cotton farming. Now a Republican, Woods was appointed by Grant to sit on the 5th Judicial Circuit. President Hayes appointed Woods to the Supreme Court in 1880, following 11 years on the circuit bench. This would be the first appointment from a Confederate state since 1853. (Woods was succeeded by Lucius Lamar who would be the first ex-Confederate on the High Court.) Return to Last Page



Levi Woodbury

Levi Woodbury came from old New England stock. He graduated Dartmouth College and briefly attended law schoPortrait of Levi Woodburyol in Litchfield, Connecticut. He abandoned law school for private study in an apprenticeship. However, his formal studies made Woodbury the first Supreme Court justice to have attended law school.

Woodbury served New Hampshire in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate. He also served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew Jackson during Jackson's crusade against the Bank of the United States.

While on the Court, Woodbury sought the 1848 presidential nomination. He was a candidate again for the 1852 election but he died early in the selection process. Return to Last Page



Fred Vinson

Fred Vinson was the son of a rural Kentucky county jailer and his wife. He worked his way through college and lawPortrait of Fred M. Vinson school and entered the practice of law in Kentucky at the age of 21. Vinson was a congressman for 8 terms and served on the influential Ways and Means Committee during much of the New Deal. He resigned his House seat to accept an appointment by Roosevelt to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. After five years on the bench, Vinson resigned to accept an appointment in the Roosevelt administration as head of the Office of Economic Stabilization. Vinson later succeeded former justice James Byrnes as head of the Office of War Mobilization. Vinson became a trusted advisor to President Harry Truman, who appointed him Secretary of the Treasury. Truman later nominated Vinson to the position of Chief Justice. Vinson avoided the announcement of sweeping constitutional principles. He resisted overturning prior decisions. Though he helped chip away at the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial separation, he resisted a head-on confrontation of the issue in Brown v. Board of Education. Vinson's sudden death from a heart attack in 1953 paved the way for the unanimous opinion crafted by Vinson's successor, Earl Warren.
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Robert Trimble

Though born in Virginia, Robert Trimble spent most of his life in Kentucky where he studied and read law. After aPortrait of Robert Trimble short stint in the Kentucky House of Representatives, Trimble took a seat on the state Court of Appeals. He resigned 8 years later stating that the compensation ($1000 a year) was inadequate. Trimble devoted his energy to private practice. By 1817, he was a rich man and owned several slaves. With his financial security assured, Trimble accepted Madison's nomination to the federal trial court in Kentucky. Eight years later, John Quincy Adams named Trimble, a staunch nationalist, as his only appointment to the Supreme Court. Trimble's tenure was brief: 27 months. He was the Court's voice in 15 opinions. His only constitutional opinion gave rise to Chief Justice John Marshall's only dissent.
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Thomas Todd

Thomas Todd was born and raised in Virginia. At 16, he served in the Revolutionary War. Following his graduationPortrait of Thomas Todd from Liberty Hall (now Washington and Lee University), Todd tutored the daughters of a distant relative in return for room, board, and law instruction. Todd later moved to the area of Virginia that would become Kentucky. He was intimately involved in the statehood issue and was appointed by Kentucky's first governor to serve on the state's highest court. In 1807, Congress increased the membership of the Supreme Court from five to six. Jefferson selected Todd for the seat because of his familiarity with land law problems, especially those arising from the newly created western circuit of the Supreme Court (Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee). Todd served for 18 years but did not write a single constitutional opinion. In fact, he wrote a total of fourteen opinions, and most of those involved land law issues. He missed five entire Court sessions on account of personal or health issues. Return to Last Page



Mahlon Pitney

Portrait of Mahlon Pitney

A classmate of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, Mahlon Pitney served in Republican political office in Congress and in New Jersey. Though he aspired to be governor, he was appointed to the state's highest court ending his electoral ambitions. He served on that court for 20 years, eventually to become its chancellor. He was the last of President William Howard Taft's appointments to the Court. Taft himself was later appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court on which Pitney still served and criticized him as a weak member. Return to Last Page



William Paterson

William Paterson emigrated with his family to New Jersey from Ireland when he was two. Paterson was educated at Princeton and then read law, opening his own practice in 1769. Paterson held political office in New Jersey and wasPortrait of William Paterson chosen as a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia where he introduced the New Jersey Plan calling for equal political representation for the states. The idea merged into the Great Compromise. Paterson signed the draft Constitution and advocated its ratification in New Jersey. The New Jersey legislature elected Paterson to the United States Senate in 1789. He resigned his seat in 1790 to become New Jersey's governor. George Washington appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1793. During his tenure, Paterson was a firm advocate of national supremacy over state government. When Oliver Ellsworth resigned as chief justice in 1800, many senators thought that the position ought to go to Paterson. Adams shunned that counsel and nominated John Marshall as his choice. Paterson was injured in a carriage accident in 1803 and never fully recovered. He died three years later.
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Samuel Nelson

Samuel Nelson spent his youth in upstate New York. Though he planned a career in the ministry, he changed his mPortrait of Samuel Nelsonind after graduating from Middlebury College and studied law instead. He practiced law and was active in political affairs. He held state judicial commissions for 22 years before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 1845.

Nelson's appointment came as a complete surprize. President Tyler had failed in two attempts to fill this vacancy (to replace Smith Thompson); the Senate rejected both choices. Nelson, a Democrat, was viewed as a careful and noncontroversial judge who would be more appealing to the Democratically-controlled Senate, and indeed he was.

Nelson spent 27 unspectacular years on the nation's highest court. To the extent that he achieved notoriety, Nelson (along with Justice John A. Campbell) attempted to avoid the Civil War though conciliation efforts between north and south in 1860-61. Nelson retired from the Court in 1872 and died a year later.
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William H. Moody

William Moody graduated Harvard College and studied law briefly thereafter. He left law school and apprenticed Portrait of William H. Moodyin a law office in Boston, entering the bar in1878. Moody was active in Republican politics and was named district attorney for eastern Massachusetts in 1890. He rose to prominence when he prosecuted the alleged ax-murderer, Lizzie Borden. Although she was acquitted, his prosecutorial skill was noted by leading Republicans of the day. Moody had powerful friends in high places. He was close to New York police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt assumed the presidency, he called on Moody to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Later Roosevelt appointed him attorney general and then elevated him to the High Court to replace Justice Henry Brown. Moody's Court career was cut short by a form of crippling rheumatism that forced his early retirement from the bench.
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Thomas Matthews

Thomas Stanley Matthews was a wunderkind. He entered Kenyon College as a junior and graduated at sixteen. HePortrait of Stanley Matthews read law and then moved from Ohio to Tennessee where he was admitted to the bar at eighteen. He returned to Ohio two years where he was a newspaper editor. His strong antislavery views propelled him to a number of public offices. Matthews would later serve briefly in the United States Senate. He was nominated by President Rutherford B. Hayes when Justice Swayne resigned. The appointment was not confirmed. The senate accused Hayes of cronyism since he and Matthews were classmates at Kenyon College, practiced law in Cincinnati, and served as officers in the state infantry. Garfield renominated Matthews. The matter finally came to a vote in 1881 and Matthews' appointment was confirmed, 24 to 23. Matthews proved a hard worker who shouldered significant responsibility. Though his tenure was relatively brief (only seven years), his opinions for the Court in the Hurtado and Yick Wo cases, have had lasting influence since they are cited by judges to this day.
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John Marshall

John Marshall was born in a log cabin on the Virginia frontier, the first of fifteen children. He was a participant in thePortrait of John Marshall Revolutionary War as a member of the 3d Virginia Regiment. He studied law briefly in 1780, and was admitted to practice the same year. He quickly established a successful career defending individuals against their pre-War British creditors.

Marshall served in Virginia's House of Delegates. He also participated in the state ratifying convention and spoke forcefully on behalf of the new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.

Marshall contemplated several offers to serve in the Washington and Adams administrations. He declined service as attorney general for Washington; he declined positions on the Supreme Court and as secretary of war under Adams. At Washington's direction, Marshall ran successfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives but his tenure there was brief. Adams offered Marshall the position of secretary of state, which Marshall accepted. When Ellsworth resigned as chief justice in 1800, Adams turned to the first chief justice, John Jay, who declined. Federalists urged Adams to promote associate justice William Paterson to the spot; Adams opted for Marshall.

Marshall's impact on American constitutional law is peerless. He served for more than 34 years (a record that few others have broken), he participated in more than 1000 decisions and authored over 500 opinions. As the single most important figure on constitutional law, Marshall's imprint can still be fathomed in the great issues of contemporary America. Other justices will surpass his single accomplishments, but no one will replace him as the Babe Ruth of the Supreme Court!
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Joesph Lamar

Portrait of Joseph R. LamarBorn to a social prominent family, Joseph Lamar spent most of his life in his native Georgia. Though he attended the University of Georgia, he completed his education at Bethany College. Lamar studied law briefly at Washington and Lee University and passed the Georgia bar in 1880. While in private practice, Lamar served two terms in the Georgia legislature. Lamar was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1903 but served only two years. Lamar's nomination to the nation's highest court was something of a surprise. Lamar had only brief contact with President Taft as a result of Taft's occasional vacations in Lamar's community of Augusta, Georgia. Lamar was little known outside the South, which cast potential doubt on his confirmation by a Republican Senate. Those doubts proved unfounded; Lamar was confirmed five days after his nomination. Lamar proved to be a pedestrian justice, lacking imagination and creativity. He died after five years of service, leaving hardly a strand in the fabric of the law.
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Stephen J. Field

Stephen Johnson Field was born and raised in Connecticut. He attended Williams College and then read law. FieldPortrait of Stephen J. Field's family was remarkably accomplished. His three brothers were David Dudley Field (New York lawyer and politician), Cyrus W. Field (who promoted the first telegraph cable under the Atlantic Ocean), and Henry M. Field (a leading clergyman and author). Field's nephew was David Brewer, who was a Supreme Court justice; he and Field served together during Field's last 7 years on the bench; and Field's niece (Anita Whitney) was a litigant in a significant free speech case decided by the Court in 1927. Field moved to California where he was elected as a Democrat to state legislative office and, later, to the state supreme court. Field was nominated by Lincoln in 1863 to fill a newly created tenth seat on the High Court. Field's appointment as a Democrat was based on his staunch support of the Union cause. Field wanted to be chief justice, but that was not to be. He remained on the Court well after his faculties started to wane. Field's 34 years and 9+ months on the Court surpassed John Marshall's service by a mere five months.

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Oliver Ellsworth

Oliver Ellsworth was born and raised in Connecticut. He attended Yale College but left after two years to complete Portrait of Oliver Ellsworthhis studies at Princeton. He prepared to enter the ministry but then switched to the study of law. Ellsworth eked out an existence as a farmer while nurturing his legal practice. (In his later years, Ellsworth wrote a newspaper column on farming advice.) His practice grew as did his income. Ellsworth held elective office in Connecticut and was later elected to represent the state at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He was the co-author of the Great Compromise that offered an acceptable representation formula for small and large states. He did not sign the document, however, because he left to attend to business in Connecticut. Ellsworth was elected senator and played a vital role in the Congress as principal author of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which spelled out the structure and function of the national judiciary. President George Washington appointed Ellsworth to the position of chief justice. Ellsworth resigned after three years with little to have shown for his efforts. Perhaps Ellsworth's most lasting contribution while on the Court was a reduction in the practice of each justice authoring a separate seriatim opinion. Ellsworth encouraged the use of a single opinion representing the consensus of the justices. Marshall elaborated on the single-opinion concept and it later became associated with his tenure as chief justice.
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Willis Van Devanter

Willis Van Devanter spent his early years in Indiana but headed to Wyoming Territory shortly after receiving his law Portrait of Willis Van Devanterdegree. Van Devanter opened his law practice In Cheyenne and became active in Republican politics. For his efforts, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Van Devanter as chief justice of the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court at the ripe old age of 30! After a stint in Washington as an assistant attorney general, Van Devanter accepted President Theodore Roosevelt's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Seven years later, President William Howard Taft nominated Van Devanter to the Supreme Court. Van Devanter was afflicted with "pen paralysis." He rarely spoke for the Court in constitutional cases.

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Portrait of William Cushing

William Cushing

William Cushing was born to a old and distinguished Massachusetts family. He was a teacher for a year following graduation from Harvard College. He then turned to law and established a private practice in Scituate, his home town. But he was not a skilled lawyer and left practice for the bench. He served as a justice of the peace and as a judge of probates in the region of Massachusetts now known as Maine, but he seemed incapable of making decisions, which is a necessary condition of judging. (Cushing was the last American judge to wear a full wig. He abandoned the habit in 1790.) Cushing was a reluctant supporter of revolution in the colonies. But he was a strong advocate of the new Constitution. He was vice president of the state ratifying convention in 1788. Washington nominated Cushing as one of the original Supreme Court appointees. While still on the High Court, Cushing ran unsuccessfully against Samuel Adams for governor of Massachusetts. Washington offered Cushing the chief justice position when Jay resigned, but Cushing declined.
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John Catron

John Catron was a self-educated man who served under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. Catron was a successfulPortrait of John Catron businessman and lawyer in the Nashville area. He was elected to the position of chief justice of Tennessee's highest court but later resigned when the court was abolished by judicial reorganization. Catron was active in politics and directed the presidential campaign of Martin Van Buren in Tennessee. President Andrew Jackson picked Catron to fill one of two newly created seats on the nation's highest court. Jackson nominated his fellow Tennessean Catron on his final day in office as president. Catron stood on the states' rights side but opposed secession. He was forced to leave Tennessee when he refused to support the Confederacy. Catron died in harness on May 30, 1865. Congress then abolished his seat, reducing the number of justices from ten to nine.

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Samuel Blatchford

Samuel Blatchford was born and educated in New York. He enrolled in Columbia College at thirteen and graduated at thePortrait of Samuel Blatchford top of his class. He practiced admiralty and international law for 25 years when he was appointed a federal trial judge in 1867. Five years later, Blatchford was elevated to the U.S. Circuit Court. He was an appellate judge for 10 years when Chester A. Arthur appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1882. Blatchford was Arthur's third choice for the High Court seat, but two other candidates refused Arthur's invitation to serve. Blatchford was an expert in admiralty and patent law, and he was well-versed in the construction of the nation's banking laws. This wealth of knowledge made Blatchford the Court's workhorse. Blatchford was uninterested in questions of moment; but he was supremely invested in the judicial function, dissenting less frequently than any justice since the era of John Marshall. He authored few cases calling for constitutional interpretation. One lackluster performance was Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway v. Minnesota (1890).

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John Blair Jr.

John Blair, Jr. was a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention. He served on the committee that drafted the VirginiaPortrait of John Blair Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Constitution. He as appointed a state judge in 1777. Blair was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but he never made a speech. President George Washington appointed Blair one of the original justices of the Supreme Court. He served during a period when the Court handed down few important decisions. Blair left no mark -- for good or for ill -- on the nation's jurisprudence.

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Henry Baldwin

                                            U.S. Supreme Court Justice Pennsylvania House Representative

Henry Baldwin was an American judge who was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1830-1844). He was bornPortrait of Henry Baldwin in New Haven, Conn., on Jan. 14th 1780, and graduated with honors from Yale in 1797. He was admitted to the bar in Pittsburgh and practiced law there and in Meadville, Pa.
Henry Baldwin was elected to the first of three terms as the representative for Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1816 (to 1822). He was a supporter of protective tariffs and played a leading role in Florida treaty negotiations before ill health forced him to resign in 1822.
An ardent supporter of Andrew Jackson in the presidential campaign of 1828, he hoped to be named secretary of the treasury but was instead appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1830, a position he held until 1844. Initially, his respect for Chief Justice John Marshall allied him to the liberal interpreters of the Constitution, but he gradually moved to the middle ground. He attempted to put his judicial principles in a systematic framework in A General View of the Origin and Nature of the Constitution and Government of the United States (1837). His decisions on the court were unpredictable. His most important opinion was handed down in the Florida Land Case, United States v. Arredondo (1832), which made strict adherence to treaties a basic element of public land policy.
He died in Philadelphia on April 2nd,1844.

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James Francis Byrnes 

U.S. Senator; U.S. Supreme Court Justice and South Carolina Governor

James Francis Byrnes was born in Charleston in 1879. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1925James Byrnes. In 1930 he was elected U.S. Senator and he was reelected in the 1936 election. He was a member of the appropriations, banking and currency, and foreign relations committees.

Byrnes was a close confidant of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's and in 1941 Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court. He left this appointment in 1942 to serve as the Director of the National Economy. After Roosevelt's death, President Truman appointed him Secretary of State, and he served as chief of U.S. foreign policy until 1947.

In 1946 Time Magazine declared him "Man of the Year." He was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1950, and in 1953 he was named a United Nations delegate by President Eisenhower.

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Earl Warren

Governor of California, appointed Chief Justice by Dwight Eisenhower (R) in 1953, served until 1969.

"Warren did not immediately manifest the libertarian activism that would eventually result in all-out assaults on the Court,[Portrait of Chief Justice Warren] accompanied by the distribution of 'Impeach Earl Warren' bumper stickers and Warren Impeachment Kits. By mid-1956 it had become crystal clear that, as Chief Justice of the United States, Earl Warren was in the process of providing leadership for a libertarian activist approach to public law and personal rights that went far beyond the Eisenhower brand of progressive Republicanism. The Chief Justice, usually with Justices Black and Douglas (and later Brennan) by his side, wrought a constitutional revolution in the application of the Bill of Rights to the states; in the generous interpretation of specific provisions of criminal-justice safeguards for the individual; in the application and interpretation of the Civil War amendments; in the liberalization of the right to foreign travel, to vote, the right to run for office, and the right to fair representation, to 'one person, one vote'; to an elevated commitment to freedom of expression; and in many other sectors of the freedom of the individual. He was the Chief Justice par excellence - second in institutional-leadership greatness only to John Marshall himself. Like Marshall he understood and utilized the tools of pervasive and persuasive power leadership available to him; he knew how to bring men together, how to set a tone, and how to fashion a mood. He was a wise man and a warm, kind human being. He was his Court, the Court." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Wiley B. Rutledge

Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, appointed by Franklin Roosevelt (D) in 1943, served until 1949.

"Rutledge, who genuinely loved people of all walks of life, demonstrated his firm libertarian colors. His score in beh[Portrait of Justice Rutledge]alf of individual claims against alleged violations by government was higher than any of his colleagues'. The years of Rutledge's tenure saw the Court at its libertarian apogee; after his death it would not return to a similar posture until the heyday of the Warren Court." -- Henry J. Abraham


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Potter Stewart

Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, appointed by Dwight Eisenhower (R) in 1958, served until 1981.

"He charted a generally progressive-conservative or moderately liberal course, depending on one's perception. Dur[Portrait of Justice Stewart]ing the heyday of the Warren Court, he was more often than not found on the cautious, conservative, or 'centrist' side. But his stance on racial and sexual discrimination, and, in particular, on the First and Fourteenth amendments' guarantees of freedom of expression, found him only slightly less proindividual or progroup than his most advanced libertarian activist contemporaries. Stewart and Byron R. White turned into the 'swing men' on the Burger Court. It was a role admirable suited for the cautious, judicious, fair-minded student of judicial power. He will be remembered as a principled constitutionalist who had that all-too-rare ability to write both simply and clearly." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Stanley F. Reed

Solicitor General of the United States, appointed by Franklin Roosevelt (D) in 1938, served until 1957.

"Reed was the least glamorous and least mercurial of the Roosevelt Justices. He faithfully backed the President's [Portrait of Justice Reed]program, but observers generally label him as being far more of a judicial conservative than a liberal on the bench - probably because, 'opposed to government by judges,' he moved more slowly and cautiously than his colleagues on the frontiers of constitutional change, and because he was reluctant to side with his more liberal associates in their escalating rulings that favored individuals vis-a-vis government. This was especially true in national security and criminal-justice cases, in which Reed usually fit into the law-and-order mold. Yet he solidly backed the Court's developing position on racial segregation." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Sherman Minton

Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, appointed by Harry Truman (D) in 1949, served until 1956.

"Despite the genuine affection of his colleagues, 'Shay' Minton was essentially uncomfortable among high-pow[Portrait of Justice Minton]ered judicial individualists. His stint in the Court has been universally and justly regarded as a failure. The ardent New Dealer continued to support strong governmental action during his few years on the Court. But he left the President and many old colleagues of his New Deal Senate days on the civil libertarian front, where he immediately joined the so-called 'conservative' wing of the Court. The likeable, witty, popular, tobacco-chewing Minton did his share of work on the bench and contributed to the smoothing of internal conflicts, but he wrote no opinions of lasting significance." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Robert H. Jackson

Attorney General of the United States, appointed by Franklin Roosevelt (D) in 1941, served until 1954.

"Jackson's acceptance of President Truman's request in 1945 to become the U. S. Chief Prosecutor at the Nurembe[Portrait of Justice Jackson]rg Nazi War Crimes Trials, and his subsequent absence from the Court for an entire term, compounded his difficulties with his colleagues. Jackson was brilliant at Nuremberg, yet he returned from the trials a different man: the once libertarian judicial activist had become profoundly cautious, a markedly narrow interpreter of the Bill of Rights. Yet he remained an apostle of judicial restraint in the economic-proprietarian sphere, supporting governmental authority to regulate and thus remaining true to his basic New Deal commitments." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Thurgood Marshall

Solicitor General of the United States, appointed by Lyndon Johnson (D) in 1967, served until 1991.

[Portrait of Justice Marshall]"Marshall became a predictable ally of the remaining libertarian activists on the Court. His career has been somewhat uneven participatory. It has reached high points in the areas of his greatest concern and commitment - equal protection of the laws, due process of law, and First Amendment cases; not a judicial workaholic, however, Marshall has evinced a rather indifferent, even demonstrably bored, attitude toward some of the more technical problems of statutory construction and constitutional interpretation in areas other than those of civil rights and liberties." -- Henry J. Abraham

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William O. Douglas

Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission, appointed by Franklin Roosevelt (D) in 1939, served until 1975.


"For thirty-six and one-half years - a record not likely soon, if ever, to be broken - the feisty, determined, outspoken judicial activist[Portrait of Justice Douglas] for liberal causes and underdog individuals remained a highly visible member of the Court, notwithstanding a pacemaker in his chest, a fifth wife forty years his junior, and gradually increasing circulatory difficulties. The Douglas human rights posture would not be checked by the verbiage of the Constitution: if that document and its Bill of Rights did not provide the kind of protection for the individual Douglas deemed necessary to bring about equal justice under law as he perceived it, well, he would find it. Often embattled off as well as on the Court, this colorful and brilliant scholar eloquently articulated his posture again and again - in cases at law as well as from the lecture podium, in books as well as journals, including Playboy magazine." -- Henry J. Abraham

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John M. Harlan

Kentucky lawyer and politician, appointed by Rutherford B. Hayes (R) in 1877, served until 1911.

"Harlan had not only become a firm devotee of the Civil War amendments, he had also begun to commit himself w[Portrait of Justice Harlan]ith consistency and eloquence - almost always in solo dissenting opinions - to the proposition that the Fourteenth applied or 'incorporated' the Bill of Rights. More than any other public figure on the nineteenth-century Supreme Court, Harlan would amply and poignantly demonstrate that commitment, though almost invariably in dissent. Harlan became 'the brilliant precursor in liberalism and dissent of Justice Holmes.' As long as conscience will govern men and women, they will remember his outcry in solitary dissent from the Court's 1896 opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the 'separate but equal' doctrine: 'Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.'" -- Henry J. Abraham

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Thomas C Clark

Attorney General of the United States, appointed by Harry Truman (D) in 1949, served until 1967.

"Clark's years on the Court cast him into a role of a determined, if cautious, craftsman of the law who frequently be(Portrait of Justice Clark)came a 'swing man' between the 'liberal' and 'conservative' blocs on the bench. Although he remained essentially true to his assertive strong governmental position, he was fully alive to the basic lines and limits inherent in constitutionalism and the nature of the judicial function. The country deeply regretted Clark's self-imposed resignation at the close of the 1966-1967 term when LBJ appointed his mercurial son, Ramsey Clark, Attorney General of the United States." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Harold H. Burton

Ohio Senator (R), appointed by Harry Truman (D) in 1945, served until 1958.

"Burton spent thirteen years on the Court, characterized by a combination of uncertainty, deliberate caution, indepen[Portrait of Justice Burton]dence, and unpredictability. Rarely could he be found in the libertarian wing. Nonetheless, there were times when he would cross over, especially when he believed the state or federal government to be taking impermissible shortcuts with constitutionally guaranteed basic liberties - and he demonstrated a generally tough view on the question of separation of Church and State. But he was essentially a devotee of the self-restraint, 'when-in-doubt-don't' school of jurisprudence, and he was far happier in the role of follower than leader." -- Henry J. Abraham

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John H. Clark

U. S. District Judge for Ohio, appointed by Woodrow Wilson (D) in 1916, served until 1922.

[Portrait of Justice Clarke]"Clarke's brief tenure on the bench was solidly Wilsonian: progressive on social and economic matters and liberal on civil rights and liberties. Indeed, Clarke's philosophy was considerably to the left of Wilson and Brandeis. A committed and conscientious Justice, nevertheless, he was unhappy on the Court. He grew increasingly disillusioned with what he regarded as the Court's failure to embrace a genuinely liberal approach to public policy; the McReynolds antics and hostilities were anathema to the gentle Clarke, who was unwilling to ignore them and unable to cope with them." -- Henry J. Abraham

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Hugo L. Black

Alabama Senator (D), appointed by Franklin Roosevelt (D) in 1937, served until 1971.

"Few jurists have had the impact on law and society of Justice Black. A constitutional literalist to whom every word in the document[Portrait of Justice Black] represented a command, he, nonetheless, used the language of the Constitution to propound a jurisprudence that has had a lasting effect on the development of American constitutional law. His contributions were towering. They stand as jurisprudential and intellectual landmarks in the evolving history of the land he loved so well. In the long run Black's achievements encompass securing the central meaning of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is generally agreed that the nationalization of the Bill of Rights was Black's most visible achievement; yet it is but one of many." -- Henry J. Abraham 

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  Information on this page is thanks to the efforts of The Oyez Project and Northwestern University

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