The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1

The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1

The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1

The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1

Excerpt

"The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men." So spoke John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803) and in that famous case went on, through the force of his own will and wisdom, to turn a moribund tribunal into the Supreme Court of the United States, a new political institution powerful enough to chastise and limit Congresses and presidents. In the name of man's subordination to law, Marshall proved what Bishop Hoadly told George I almost a century before:

Whoever hath an absolute authority to interpret written or spoken laws; it is he who is truly the lawgiver to all intents and purposes and not the person who wrote or spoke them.

These volumes are biographical essays on the lawgivers who have been Justices of the Supreme Court, and to the extent that each is in fact a valid historical appraisal of a man and his life in the law, the critical biographies contained in this edition constitute a unique resource. For—apart from several book-length studies, of varying worth and interest, of some of the leading Justices—there has been little biographical attention given to the members of the Court. And this dearth of scholarly enterprise reflects the kind of narrow historical perspective that sees the Court's work only in terms of those Justices who have made judicial headlines. Primary interest of course centers on Marshall; on Taney; on Miller and Field and the elder Harlan; on Holmes and Hughes and Brandeis; and on Frankfurter and Black. But to ignore Cushing or Duvall or Grier or Brown or Moody or Minton is to put out of sight one of the most distinctive facts about the Court—that it is a collective institution, whose achievements, for good or ill, are the achievements of men who jointly wield the "judicial power."

Nor is the relevant partnership simply the nine (or six, or seven, or ten) Justices who shared the bench on any given opinion day. Justice Black (as John Frank tellingly reminds us) served with nearly a fourth of all the Justices; Chief Justice Hughes, in two terms on the Court, served with a fifth of all the Justices. Yet the partnership relates back further still. The Court's "we" is cumulative, going back almost 400 volumes to the first of Dallas' Reports. Elections punctuate the life-cycles of the other departments of government. But there remains in unbroken continuity the third department established by the Constitution- "one supreme Court."

The longevity of the Court—which is to say, the longevity of our consti-

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