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September 22, 2020


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Greg Sergienko

I'm a bit surprised that you're leaving out Earl Warren and Benjamin Cardozo of the Balkin/Levinson category of those who had significant pre-Supreme-Court experiences.

Warren was governor of California and the only governor of the state yet to be elected to three consecutive terms. He was its attorney general before that. He was a running mate to Dewey. For American history, his central role in Brown v. Board of Education and the re-districting cases means that his judicial service is what he's most remembered for, but his judicial service was pre-eminent, in my view, such that only Chief Justice Marshall had as big an effect on American history.

Cardozo was a bit of the opposite situation. He is well remembered as a judge, but his most influential work was before his appointment on the Supreme Court. Of the cases for which he's remembered, the great majority are New York Court of Appeals cases not United States Supreme Court cases.

Okay, back to work.

Steve L.

Thanks, Greg. Those are both good suggestions.



Greg, I's say that Warren's greatest role as CJ was on criminal law. The overthrow of Plessey was well underway by the time Warren was confirmed. Short of having a southern Democrat replace CJ Vinson in 1953, Brown would have been unanimously decided the following year in exactly the same manner.

Redistricting had major implications for society but Warren's vote was not needed in order to make that happen. The criminal law cases on the other hand often involved 5-4 votes. The most notable case that everyone who's ever watched a crime show is familiar with is Miranda. Not only did Warren read his 50 or 60 page decision on this from the bench, but his choice to outline exactly how to conform to the ruling ("you have a right to remain silent...") must be unique in Supreme Court history.

Erik M Jensen

Charles Evans Hughes? The analysis is complicated, I suppose, by his having two different terms on the Court, but he was a significant figure even before his first appointment.

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