Recent discussion about the Supreme Court prompted… some thoughts about the greatest men to sit on our nation’s highest bench. Four faces that best exemplify jurisprudence in American history. Here goes….
John Marshall: Chief Justice 1801-1835– The George Washington of justices, the first and possibly the greatest. Marshall established all future Court behavior in Marbury v. Madison – later he helped define Federalism with the McCulloch v. Maryland decision.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: Associate Justice 1902-1932– A man of action on the battlefield (wounded twice in the Civil War) and in the courtroom. Holmes is one of the most cited Justices and helped establish that free speech must be responsible speech in Schenck v. United States.
John Marshall Harlan: Associate Justice 1877-1911– A former slave owner who became the voice of reason on a Court determined to protect segregation. Harlan’s lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson became the foundation of all future Civil Rights cases.
Earl Warren: Chief Justice 1953-1969– Much ink has been spilled over Warren’s legacy, but it is an essential one. Warren’s decisions ended public school segregation, reaffirmed “one man-one vote,” and expanded due-process protections. He is largely responsible for the role the Court plays in modern American politics.