Monday, October 03, 2005

Where do Supreme Court Justices Come From?

Apropos of President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers, a woman with no previous judicial experience, to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, it is worth remembering that a number of previous Supreme Court justices came to the Court without judicial experience (including the following men who served during the 20th century):

Melville Fuller – Leading Chicago lawyer and Democratic campaigner
George Shiras – Pittsburgh corporate lawyer
William Moody – U.S. attorney general; prosecutor of Lizzie Borden
Charles Evans Hughes – Governor of NY before his first appointment to the Court
James McReynolds – U.S. attorney general and anti-Semite
Louis Brandeis – Public interest lawyer and successful bond investor
George Sutherland – U.S. senator from Utah
Pierce Butler – Railroad lawyer
Harlan Stone – U.S. attorney general, formerly Columbia law dean
Owen J. Roberts – lawyer, prosecutor of the Teapot Dome defendants
James Byrnes – U.S. senator from South Carolina
Stanley Reed – U.S. solicitor general
William O. Douglas – Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Felix Frankfurter – Harvard law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney
Robert H. Jackson – U.S. attorney general
Harold Burton – U.S. senator from Ohio
Tom Clark – U.S. attorney general
Earl Warren – Governor of California
Arthur Goldberg – U.S. secretary of labor
Byron White – U.S. deputy attorney general, former NFL rushing leader
Abe Fortas – lawyer, a founder of the firm Arnold & Porter
Lewis Powell – lawyer, a partner with a predecessor of Hunton & Williams
William Rehnquist – lawyer with the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel

They've come in all political stripes.

Using these as potential categories of public life from which President Bush could have chosen a nominee, I suppose we should be thankful that he did not choose Utah U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, former NFL rushing leader O.J. Simpson or California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Anonymous said...

As a fan of the late Justice
Lewis Powell, I think it would be fair for you to mention that he also served as president of the
American Bar Association.

Because George Wallace won the south in 1968, Nixon was desperate
to appoint a southerner, and Lewis
Powell was a Great nomination.

3:50 PM  
Blogger RSchuler said...


You make a fair point. It is one of the reasons why Powell was considered eminently qualified for the seat. My main point is that I do think it is possible to come to the office without any prior judicial experience and still be qualified for the job; if the Miers pick was to be maligned for any reason, it should have been very specifically because she didn't have an extraordinary background on constitutional issues -- and not because she never served as a judge.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment!

4:49 PM  

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