Why Does the Supreme Court Convene on the First Monday of October?

 

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The Supreme Court’s new term begins on the first Monday of October, and typically ends at the end of June. 28 U.S.C. § 2 sets this date: “The Supreme Court shall hold at the seat of government a term of court commencing on the first Monday in October of each year and may hold such adjourned or special terms as may be necessary.”

28 U.S.C. §2 was passed by Congress in 1916, and the Supreme Court began its term on the first Monday in October in 1917.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 provided that the Supreme Court “shall hold annually at the seat of government two sessions, the one commencing the first Monday of February, and the other the first Monday of August.”  The Court met for the first time on February 2, 1790.

In the mid-19th century, the Court began its term in December. During this time, the Court’s docket grew exponentially, and so Congress allowed the Court in 1866 to set its own start date; the Court moved that date to October. In 1873, Congress formalized this practice by passing a law that moved the Court’s term from the first Monday in December to the second Monday in October. It remained on that day until 1917.

The Court does sometimes hold special sessions for important cases. Examples include the 1942 case of Ex Parte Quirin and the 2003 case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.

 

 

*Source: David L. Hudson, Jr, The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book.

A Primer on Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

Confirmation hearings begin on Monday, March 20 for President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. More information about Judge Gorsuch is available here.

I thought it might be useful to provide a brief primer on Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Background

The procedure for appointing a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court is provided in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . Judges of the supreme court.” The President must first select and nominate an individual before he or she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate has confirmed a total of 124 Supreme Court nominations out of a total of 161 received. Of those who were not confirmed, they were either outright rejected via roll call vote, were withdrawn, postponed, tabled or never voted upon due to significant committee or Senate opposition to the nominee or president.

The Process

(1) Pre-hearing investigations

Although not mentioned in the Constitution, the Senate Judiciary Committee plays a key role in Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The Judiciary Committee takes on the primary responsibility of investigating the background and qualifications of each Supreme Court nominee.

During this stage, the nominee responds to a detailed questionnaire, providing professional, biographical, and financial information to the committee. Note: The FBI also investigates the nominee and provides the committee with confidential reports related to its investigations.

The nominee also visits with members of the judiciary committee and other senators during what are called “courtesy calls.”

(2) Public hearings

During this stage, a nominee testifies in hearings before the committee.

Judiciary Committee members and their staffs closely study the public record and investigative information about the nominee before the hearings begin. The nominee also intensively prepares. The President’s staff assists the nominee by providing legal background materials and by conducting mock hearings. These sessions have come to be known as “murder boards” because of how grueling the sessions are on the nominee.

A confirmation hearing begins with a statement by the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and is followed by opening statements by other committee members. A panel of “presenters” then introduce the nominee to the committee, and then the nominee has an opportunity to offer an opening statement.

The chair of the committee will begin the questioning, followed by the ranking minority member and then the rest of the committee in descending order of seniority, alternating between members of the majority and minority party. There is a uniform time limit for each senator during each round of questioning. When the first round of questioning is complete, the committee begins a second round, which may be followed by more, if the committee chair permits additional questioning.

Questions tends to focus on legal qualifications, past judicial opinions or other public actions, private backgrounds. Questions may also be aimed at identifying the nominee’s views on social and political issues, the Constitution, and judicial philosophy. In some cases, a nominee may decline to answer a question for fear of appearing to comment on an issue that may later come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

(3) Public Witnesses

After the nominee’s hearing is complete, the committee will also hear testimony from public witnesses. These witnesses typically include the chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (who explains the ABA’s rating of a nominee), professional colleagues of the nominee and/or representatives of groups who support or oppose the nominee.

(4) Closed-Door Committee Session

Starting in 1992, the Judiciary Committee started conducting a closed-door session with the nominee in order to help address questions regarding that person’s background brought to the committee through confidential investigations. Then-Senator Joe Biden explained the procedure saying that they would be conducted “in all cases, even when there are no major investigative issues to be resolved so that the holding of such hearing cannot be taken to demonstrate that the committee has received adverse confidential information about the nomination.”

(5) Committee decision on what recommendation to make to the full senate

Usually within a week upon completion of the hearings, the Judiciary Committee meets in open session to determine what recommendation to report to the full Senate.

The committee may: (1) report favorably on the nomination; (2) report on it negatively; or (3) make no recommendation. In all three cases, the nomination will go forward.

After the Judiciary Committee has reported a nomination, it is placed on the “Executive Calendar” and assigned a calendar number. Business of the “Executive Calendar” is considered in executive session, which is open to the public.

(6) Bringing the Nomination to the Floor

Consideration of a nomination is scheduled by the majority leader (Senator Mitch McConnell), who typically consults with the minority leader (Senator Chuck Schumer) and all interested Senators. The chart below explains the contemporary practice for bringing a Supreme Court nomination to the floor.

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Once the Senate debate begins, it is typical for those Senators who choose to take the floor to state his or her reasons for voting in favor or against a nominee’s confirmation.

Filibusters and Motions to End Debate

Senate rules place no limits on how long floor consideration of a nomination may last. This allows for the possibility of a filibuster by the nominee’s opponents. Supporters may seek to limit debate by invoking cloture, which limits further consideration of the matter to 30 hours. Cloture requires 60 votes. Cloture ensures that a nominee will receive a vote and be decided on by a voting majority.

(7) The Vote

When floor debate on a nomination concludes, the presiding officer puts the following question to a vote: “Will the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of [nominee’s name] of [state of residence] to be an Associate Justice [or Chief Justice] on the Supreme Court?”

A roll-call vote to confirm requires a simple majority of Senators present and voting. Since 1967, every Senate vote on whether to confirm a Supreme Court nomination has been by roll call. Prior to 1967, fewer than half were by roll call, the rest were done by voice vote.

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Sources:

(1) https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44234.pdf

(2) https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44236.pdf

The 25th Anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court Confirmation

After a bitter confirmation battle, the U.S. Senate voted 52 to 48 to confirm Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court on October 15, 1991. He is the second African American Supreme Court Justice, and the only African American currently sitting on the Court.

Thomas was nominated by George H.W. Bush after Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the Court, announced his retirement in July 1991. Thomas served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the Reagan Administration, and was appointed in 1990 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  He served on the DC Circuit for 16 months before being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thomas seemed headed for an easy confirmation until Anita Hill, a former aide at the EEOC, accused him of sexual harassment. Beginning on October 11, 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee held four days of televised hearings on Hill’s charges. Thomas denied the charges, and continues to deny them to this day. On October 15, 1991, the Senate narrowly voted to approve Thomas’ confirmation.

Justice Thomas is considered the Court’s most reliably conservative voice. He tends to be very quiet (if not completely silent) on the bench, but broke his 10-year silence to ask a question during oral argument shortly after Justice Scalia’s death earlier this year.

In 2016, many conservatives criticized the newly opened National Museum of African American History for having a display related to Anita Hill, but no display noting Justice Thomas’s legacy as the Court’s second and only sitting black Supreme Court Justice.

 

Announcing the Fifth Annual Harlan Institute -ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition for High School Students

The Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce their Fifth Annual Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct. This year the competition focuses on Trinity Lutheran Church v. Sarah Parker Pauley, exploring whether funding a playground associated with a Church violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook believes “the Virtual Supreme CourtCompetition is an excellent opportunity for high school students to develop core civic and constitutional literacy skills. Students are required to read the text of the Constitution, explore the history behind a contemporary constitutional dispute, and construct persuasive arguments. We know that experiences like theVirtual Supreme Court Competition leave a lifelong impression on participating students and encourages them to stay informed and engaged throughout their lives.”

Tanya Reyna, a winner of the 2016 Virtual Supreme Court Competition, noted that while her local community in Texas suffers from “an influx of drugs and criminals” and has dampened her views about the future of her community and the nation, her experience with the Virtual Supreme Court Competition “eased [her] apprehension [about the future].” She said that meeting “students, lawyers, professors, and judges” willing to take time out of their busy schedules “to inform younger generations of citizens about our legal system,” demonstrated to her that “as long as there are citizens like them, America will continue to hold a bright future.”

The members of the grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. or New York City to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration in September 2017. Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad Mini. Members of the third and fourth place teams will each receive a $100 Amazon.com Gift card.

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Josh Blackman, President of the Harlan Institute, champions theVirtual Supreme Court Competition, which provides an “unprecedented opportunity for high school students to engage in the highest level of appellate advocacy. They research the issues, write briefs, and make oral arguments before our judges. The strong caliber of the winning teams last year really impressed us. We can’t wait to see how the teams perform this year!”

Teachers interested in participating should sign up at HarlanInstitute.org, add an account, read the problem, and get started!

Please send any questions to info@harlaninstitute.orgor info@consource.org.

If you’re interested in supporting the Virtual Supreme Court Competition and the extraordinary students who participate across the country, please consider making a donation today!

A Civic Holiday for SCOTUS Enthusiasts: The First Monday in October

28 U.S.C § 2 states that “The Supreme Court shall hold at the seat of government a term of court commencing on the first Monday in October of each year and may hold such adjourned or special terms as may be necessary.”

And so the first Monday in October has become an unofficial civic holiday of sorts for followers of the United States Supreme Court. And so it seems only appropriate to spend some time discussing the history of the United States Supreme Court.

Article III, §1 of the United States Constitution states that “[t]he judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with this provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. It was organized on February 2, 1790.

Article III, §2 of the Constitution sets out the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and provides that

“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;-to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;-between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

“In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Under authority given to Congress by the Constitution, various statutes have been passed conferring appellate jurisdiction upon the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and 8 associate justices (the number currently fixed by statute in 28 U.S.C. §1).

Article III, §1 provides that “[t]he Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

The current justices of the United States Supreme Court include:

(1) Chief Justice John G. Roberts

(2) Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

(3) Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

(4) Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(5) Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer

(6) Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

(7) Associate Justice Sonio Sotomayor

(8) Associate Justice Elena Kagan

There is currently one vacancy on the Court. Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been nominated by President Obama to fill that vacancy. The Senate has not yet voted to confirm Garland’s nomination. Article II, §2 of the Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . judges of the Supreme Court.”

 

Thurgood Marshall was Sworn in as the First Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice 49 Years Ago Today

On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren as the first black United States Supreme Court Justice. On August 30 of that year, after heated debate, the Senate voted 69 to 11 to confirm his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Marshall was the great-grandson of a slave, who spent most of his career fighting for civil rights. He served as chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and 1950s, where he was the architect of the legal strategy that ended the era of state-sanctioned segregation. The most notable case he argued and won was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In Brown, the Supreme Court held that separate but equal educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1961, Marshall was appointed by John F. Kennedy to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He wrote over 150 decisions on a number of important constitutional matters while on the Second Circuit. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General, where he again successfully argued cases before the United States Supreme Court.

On June 13, 1967, Johnson nominated Marshall to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark. Of his decision to appoint Marshall as the first black Supreme Court Justice, Johnson said it was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place.”

Marshall served on the Supreme Court for 23 years, and retired in October 1991.

When Marshall died two years later in 1993, then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist said at his funeral service “As a lawyer and judge, Thurgood Marshall left an indelible mark, not just on the law, but on his country.”

 

In Honor of the 11th Anniversary of John Roberts Being Sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, A Brief History of Our Nation’s Chief Justices

On September 29, 2005, John G. Roberts, Jr., was sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. You can watch his swearing in ceremony here.

This seems like a nice opportunity to spotlight all of our nation’s chief justices (note: all images and biographical information are provided below from the Supreme Court Historical Society):

(1) Chief Justice John Jay, 1789-1795

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JOHN JAY was born on December 12, 1745, in New York, New York, and grew up in Rye, New York. He was graduated from King’s College (Now Columbia University) in 1764. He read law in a New York law firm and was admitted to the bar in 1768. Jay served as a delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses, and was elected President of the Continental Congress in 1778. He also served in the New York State militia. In 1779, Jay was sent on a diplomatic mission to Spain in an effort to gain recognition and economic assistance for the United States. In 1783, he helped to negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which marked the end of the Revolutionary War. Jay favored a stronger union and contributed five essays to The Federalist Papers in support of the new Constitution. President George Washington nominated Jay the first Chief Justice of the United States on September 24, 1789. The Senate confirmed the appointment on September 26, 1789. In April 1794, Jay negotiated a treaty with Great Britain, which became known as the Jay Treaty. After serving as Chief Justice for five years, Jay resigned from the Supreme Court on June 29, 1795, and became Governor of New York. He declined a second appointment as Chief Justice in 1800, and President John Adams then nominated John Marshall for the position.

(2) Chief Justice John Rutledge, 1795

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JOHN RUTLEDGE was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in September 1739. He studied law at the Inns of Court in England, and was admitted to the English bar in 1760. In 1761, Rutledge was elected to the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly. In 1764, he was appointed Attorney General of South Carolina by the King’s Governor and served for ten months. Rutledge served as the youngest delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, which petitioned King George III for repeal of the Act. Rutledge headed the South Carolina delegation to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and served as a member of the South Carolina Ratification Convention the following year. On September 24, 1789, President George Washington nominated Rutledge one of the original Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment two days later. After one year on the Supreme Court, Rutledge resigned in 1791 to become Chief Justice of South Carolina’s highest court. On August 12, 1795, President George Washington nominated Rutledge Chief Justice of the United States. He served in that position as a recess appointee for four months, but the Senate refused to confirm him.

(3) Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, 1796-1800

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OLIVER ELLSWORTH was born on April 29, 1745, in Windsor, Connecticut. Ellsworth attended Yale College until the end of his sophomore year, and then transferred to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he was graduated in 1766. He read law in a law office for four years and was admitted to the bar in 1779. Ellsworth was a member of the Connecticut General Assembly from 1773 to 1776. From 1777 to 1784, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and worked on many of its committees. After service on the Connecticut Council of Safety and the Governor’s Council, he became a Judge of the Superior Court of Connecticut in 1785. As a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Ellsworth helped formulate the “Connecticut Compromise,” which resolved a critical debate between the large and small states over representation in Congress. Ellsworth was elected to the First Federal Congress as a Senator. There he chaired the committee that drafted the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the federal court system. On March 3, 1796, President George Washington nominated Ellsworth Chief Justice of the United States and the Senate confirmed the appointment the following day. He resigned from the Supreme Court on September 30, 1800.

(4) Chief Justice John Marshall, 1801-1835

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JOHN MARSHALL was born on September 24, 1755, in Germantown, Virginia. Following service in the Revolutionary War, he attended a course of law lectures conducted by George Wythe at the College of William and Mary and continued the private study of law until his admission to practice in 1780. Marshall was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, 1787, and 1795. In 1797, he accepted appointment as one of three envoys sent on a diplomatic mission to France. Although offered appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1798, Marshall preferred to remain in private practice. Marshall was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1799, and in 1800 was appointed Secretary of State by President John Adams. The following year, President Adams nominated Marshall Chief Justice of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on January 27, 1801. Notwithstanding his appointment as Chief Justice, Marshall continued to serve as Secretary of State throughout President Adams’ term and, at President Thomas Jefferson’s request, he remained in that office briefly following Jefferson’s inauguration. Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years, the longest tenure of any Chief Justice. During his tenure, he helped establish the Supreme Court as the final authority on the meaning of the Constitution.

(5) Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, 1836-1864

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ROGER BROOKE TANEY was born in Calvert County, Maryland, on March 17, 1777. He was graduated from Dickinson College in 1795. After reading law in a law office in Annapolis, Maryland, he was admitted to the bar in 1799. In the same year, he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. Defeated for re-election, he was elected to the State Senate in 1816 and served until 1821. In 1823, Taney moved to Baltimore, where he continued the practice of law. From 1827 to 1831, Taney served as Attorney General for the State of Maryland. In 1831, Taney was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President Andrew Jackson. On September 23, 1833, Taney received a recess appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. When the recess appointment terminated, Taney was formally nominated to serve in that position, but the Senate declined to confirm the appointment in 1834. In 1835, Taney was nominated as Associate Justice by President Jackson to succeed Justice Duvall, but the Senate failed to confirm him. On December 28, 1835, President Jackson nominated Taney Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on March 15, 1836. Taney served as Chief Justice for twenty-eight years.

(6) Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase, 1864-1873

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SALMON PORTLAND CHASE was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1808, and was raised in Ohio. He returned to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth College and was graduated in 1826 at the age of eighteen. He then moved to Washington, D.C., where he read law under Attorney General William Wirth. Chase was admitted to the bar in 1829 and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked as a lecturer, writer, and editor while he established a legal practice. Chase became involved in the anti-slavery movement, and in 1848 he helped to write the platform of the Free Soilers Party. In 1848, the Ohio legislature elected Chase to the United States Senate, where he served one six-year term. In 1855, he was elected to a four-year term as Governor of Ohio, and in 1860 he was re-elected to the United States Senate. Chase resigned his Senate seat after only two days to accept a wartime appointment by President Abraham Lincoln as Secretary of the Treasury. He resigned from that post in June 1864. Six months later, on December 6, 1864, President Lincoln nominated Chase Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on December 15, 1864. Chase served as Chief Justice for eight years

(7) Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, 1874-1888

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MORRISON R. WAITE was born in Lyme, Connecticut on November 29, 1816. He was graduated from Yale College in 1837 and moved to Ohio to read law with an attorney in Maumee City. Waite was admitted to the bar in 1839 and practiced in Maumee City until 1850. He then moved to Toledo, where he practiced until 1874. Waite was elected to the Ohio General Assembly in 1850 and served one term. He ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in 1846 and 1862. Waite declined an appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1863. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Waite to a Commission established to settle United States claims against Great Britain, arising out of the latter’s assistance to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The proceedings resulted in an award of $15.5 million in compensation to the United States. Upon his return from Europe, Waite was elected to the Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1873 and was unanimously selected to serve as its president. During the Convention, on January 19, 1874, President Grant nominated Waite Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment two days later. Waite served as Chief Justice for fourteen years.

(8) Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller, 1888-1910

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MELVILLE WESTON FULLER was born in Augusta, Maine, on February 11, 1833, and was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1853. Fuller read law in Bangor, Maine, and was admitted to the bar after six months of study at Harvard Law School. In 1855, Fuller began to practice law in Augusta, Maine, and was elected President of the Augusta Common Council and appointed city solicitor. In 1856, Fuller moved west to Chicago, where he established a law practice and became active in politics. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1863 and served one term. In succeeding years he was offered the positions of Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and Solicitor General of the United States but declined both. President Grover Cleveland nominated Fuller Chief Justice of the United States on April 30, 1888. The Senate confirmed the appointment on July 20, 1888. While on the Court, Fuller served on the Venezuela-British Guiana Border Commission and the Court of Permanent Arbitration at the Hague. Fuller served twenty-one years as Chief Justice.

(9) Chief Justice Edward Douglas White, 1910-1921

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EDWARD DOUGLAS WHITE was born in the Parish of Lafourche, Louisiana, on November 3, 1845. While White was studying at Georgetown College (now Georgetown University) the Civil War began and he returned home to join the Confederate Army. He was captured in 1863 by Union troops and remained in captivity until the end of the War. Upon his release in 1865, White read law and attended the University of Louisiana. He was admitted to the bar in 1866 and established a law practice in New Orleans. White was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1874, and from 1878 to 1880 he served on the Louisiana Supreme Court. In 1891, the State Legislature elected him to the United States Senate. President Grover Cleveland nominated White to the Supreme Court of the United States on February 19, 1894. The Senate confirmed the appointment the same day. White had served for sixteen years on the Court when, on December 12, 1910, President William H. Taft nominated him Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment the same day. White was the first Associate Justice to be appointed Chief Justice. White served on the Court for a total of twenty-six years, ten of them as Chief Justice.

(10) Chief Justice William Howard Taft, 1921-1930

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WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 15, 1857. He was graduated from Yale University in 1878 and from Cincinnati Law School in 1880. Taft began his career in private practice in Cincinnati. After serving as an assistant prosecutor and a Judge of the Ohio Superior Court, he was appointed Solicitor General of the United States in 1890. From 1892 to 1900, Taft served as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1901, he was named Civilian Governor of the Philippines. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft Secretary of War. Taft was elected President of the United States in 1908 and served one term. After leaving the White House, Taft taught constitutional law at Yale University and appeared frequently on the lecture circuit. From 1918 to 1919, he served as Joint Chairman of the War Labor Board. President Warren G. Harding nominated Taft Chief Justice of the United States on June 30, 1921. The senate confirmed the appointment the same day, making Taft the only person in history to have been both President and Chief Justice. As Chief Justice he focused on the administration of justice and at his request Congress created the Conference of Senior Circuit (Chief) Judges to oversee court administration. This body became the Judicial Conference of the United States. Taft retired from the Court on February 3, 1930, after serving eight years as Chief Justice.

(11) Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, 1930 – 1941

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CHARLES EVANS HUGHES was born in Glens Falls, New York, on April 11, 1862. He was graduated in 1881 from Brown University and received a law degree from Columbia University in 1884. For the next twenty years, he practiced law in New York, New York, with only a three-year break to teach law at Cornell University. Hughes was elected Governor of New York in 1905 and re-elected two years later. On April 25, 1910, President William H. Taft nominated Hughes to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on May 2, 1910. Hughes resigned from the Court in 1916 upon being nominated by the Republican Party to run for president. After losing the election to Woodrow Wilson, he returned to his law practice in New York. Hughes served as Secretary of State from 1921 to 1925. He subsequently resumed his law practice while serving in the Hague as a United States delegate to the Permanent Court of Arbitration from 1926 to 1930. On February 3, 1930, President Herbert Hoover nominated Hughes Chief Justice of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on February 13, 1930. He served as Chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1930 to 1941. Hughes retired on July 1, 1941, after serving eleven years as Chief Justice.

(12) Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, 1941-1946

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HARLAN FISKE STONE was born on October 11, 1872, in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1894. After teaching high school chemistry for one year, he studied law at Columbia University, where he received his degree in 1898. In 1899, Stone was admitted to the bar and joined a New York law firm. For the next twenty-five years he divided his time between his practice and a career as a professor of law at Columbia University. He became Dean of the Law School in 1910 and remained in that position for thirteen years. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Stone Attorney General of the United States. The following year, on January 5, 1925, President Coolidge nominated him to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment February 5, 1925. After sixteen years of service as an Associate Justice, Stone was nominated Chief Justice of the United States by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 12, 1941. He served as Chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1941 to 1946. Stone served a total of twenty years on the Court.

(13)  Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, 1946-1953

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FRED M. VINSON was born in Louisa, Kentucky, on January 22, 1890. He was graduated from Centre College in 1909 and from its Law School two years later. In 1911, Vinson was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Ashland, Kentucky. Vinson became City Attorney of Ashland and, in 1921, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the County. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1924 and was re-elected in 1926. He resumed his Ashland practice for two years and then won re-election to the House for four consecutive terms. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Vinson served the Roosevelt Administration during World War II in a succession of positions starting in 1943: Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization, Administrator of the Federal Loan Agency, and Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion. In 1945, shortly after the end of the War, President Harry Truman appointed Vinson Secretary of the Treasury. On June 6, 1946, President Truman nominated Vinson Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on June 20, 1946. He served as Chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1946 to 1953. Vinson served for seven years as Chief Justice.

(14) Chief Justice Earl Warren, 1953-1969

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EARL WARREN was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 19, 1891. He was graduated from the University of California in 1912 and went on to receive a law degree there in 1914. He practiced for a time in law offices in San Francisco and Oakland. In 1919, Warren became Deputy City Attorney of Oakland, beginning a life in public service. In 1920, he became Deputy Assistant District Attorney of Alameda County. In 1925, he was appointed District Attorney of Alameda County, to fill an unexpired term, and was elected and re-elected to the office in his own right in 1926, 1930, and 1934. In 1938, he was elected Attorney General of California. In 1942, Warren was elected Governor of California, and he was twice re-elected. In 1948, he was the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, and in 1952, he sought the Republican party’s nomination for President. On September 30, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Warren Chief Justice of the United States under a recess appointment. The Senate confirmed the appointment on March 1, 1954. Warren served as Chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1953 to 1969 and as Chairman of the Federal Judicial Center from 1968 to 1969. He also chaired the commission of inquiry into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He retired on June 23, 1969, after fifteen years of service.

(15) Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, 1969-1986

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WARREN E. BURGER was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 17, 1907. After pre-legal studies at the University of Minnesota in high classes, he earned a law degree in 1931 from the St. Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College of Law) by attending four years of night classes while working in the accounting department of a life insurance company. He was appointed to the faculty of his law school upon graduation and remained on the adjunct faculty until 1946. Burger practiced with a St. Paul law firm from 1931 to 1953. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Burger Assistant Attorney General of the United States, Chief of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. In 1955, President Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where he served until 1969. President Richard M. Nixon nominated Burger Chief Justice of the United States on May 22, 1969. The Senate confirmed the appointment on June 9, 1969, and he took office on June 23, 1969. In July 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed Burger Chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. As Chief Justice he served as Chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States and as Chairman of the Federal Judicial Center from 1969 to 1986. Burger retired from the Court on September 26, 1986, after seventeen years of service, and continued to direct the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution from 1986 to 1992.

(16) Chief Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist, 1986-2005

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WILLIAM HUBBS REHNQUIST was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 1, 1924. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a weather observer in North Africa. Following the war, he attended college on the GI Bill, earning both a B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) and M.A. in political science at Stanford University in 1948. Rehnquist received a second M.A., in government, from Harvard two years later. He then entered Stanford Law School, where he graduated first in his class in 1952. (The student who ranked third was Sandra Day, who later joined him on the Supreme Court.) In 1952, Rehnquist clerked for Justice Robert Jackson. Rehnquist served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under the Nixon Administration. Rehnquist served on the Supreme Court for 33 years, first as an Associate Justice from 1972 to 1986, and then as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005.

(17) Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., 2005 – Present

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JOHN G. ROBERTS, Jr. was born in Buffalo, New York, January 27, 1955. He married Jane Marie Sullivan in 1996 and they have two children – Josephine and Jack. He received an A.B. from Harvard College in 1976 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979. He served as a law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1979–1980 and as a law clerk for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1980 Term. He was Special Assistant to the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice from 1981–1982, Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, White House Counsel’s Office from 1982–1986, and Principal Deputy Solicitor General, U.S. Department of Justice from 1989–1993. From 1986–1989 and 1993–2003, he practiced law in Washington, D.C. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003. President George W. Bush nominated him as Chief Justice of the United States, and he took his seat September 29, 2005.