Truman's Court: A Study in Judicial Restraint

Truman's Court: A Study in Judicial Restraint

Truman's Court: A Study in Judicial Restraint

Truman's Court: A Study in Judicial Restraint

Synopsis

"A concise, well-written examination by a lawyer-historian of the judicial restraint philosophies of President Truman's four appointees to the Supreme Court: Harold Burton, Fred Vinson, Tom Clark, and Sherman Minton. Rudko's analysis of the four men's opinions in criminal procedure, loyalty-security, racial discrimination, and alien rights cases show that Truman was far more successful than most presidents in choosing justices whose view of the judicial role matched his own." Choice

Excerpt

Supreme Court decisions are regularly scrutinized for their substantive impact on specific problems in society, and judges are usually categorized according to the perceived ideology of their particular decisions. Observers of the Court seldom question how particular decisions are made. And the impact of the Court's decisions, which comprises the policy-making power of the Court, commands not only the immediate attention of society but also the attention of most scholars who study the work of the Court as well. This concentration on the result, with its ideological trappings, often obscures the more profound judicial philosophy which formed the decision. A more fully informed response to a Court decision will encompass not only the decision and the political context in which it was made, but also the larger perspective of the judicial process leading to the decision. This study is primarily concerned not with the policy-making impact of the Court, but with the decision-making processes during a reasonably well-defined period of its history, specifically the Vinson era (1945-53), and within and beyond that period, with the judicial philosophy of Truman's four appointees to the Supreme Court.

Individual decisions of the Vinson Court have been previously analyzed by constitutional scholars for their substantive impact on the issues which they addressed. The political impact of the decisions has been amply and ably explored by John P. Frank and C. Herman Pritchett, among others. By addressing the question of how the four appointees made specific decisions, we not only better understand the decisions, we also enhance our understanding of the Supreme Court as an institution. There is a tendency to see the Supreme Court only as a political institution--its decisions as legislative rather than judicial. We need to remember that the Court, whatever may be the political impact of its decisions, functions by procedures that are distinctly judicial in nature. Looking at these decisions from the stand-

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