The book, Secret lives of the Supreme Court by Robert Schnakenberg has some interesting facts about the people who have been appointed to the U.S. Supreme court. As Robert Ingersoll once said: “We must remember that we have to make judges out of men, and that by being made judges their prejudices are not diminished and their intelligence is not increased.” Here are some examples of that fact from the book.
Justice James Clark McReynolds was the Archie Bunker of the Supreme Court who left a legacy of racial and religious bigotry unrivaled by any other justice. He was widely loathed by his colleagues on the bench. When he died in 1941 not one of his fellow justices showed up at his funeral.
He refused to eat, shake hands with, or talk to” Hebrews”” as he called Jewish people. When Louis Brandeis was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1916, becoming America’s first Jewish justice, McReynolds refused to speak to him for three years. He would get up and leave the chamber whenever Brandeis began to speak. He refused to participate in the group photograph of the justices with Brandeis. When Benjamin Cardozo was appointed as the second Jewish member of the court, McReynolds read a newspaper throughout the swearing-in ceremony and refused to speak to him after he took his seat on the court. He was an equal opportunity bigot. He openly said that blacks were “ignorant, superstitious, immoral and with but a small capacity for improvement.” But,Jews and blacks were not the only thing McReynolds had a bias about,. It included women. When a women attorney appeared before the court McReynolds simply vacated his seat and left as soon as they started to speak.
Felix frankfurter did not get along with his colleagues very well. He and Chief Justice Fred Vinson could not stand each other. When Vincent died of a heart attack in 1953, a gleeful frankfurter couldn’t resist saying on the ride home from the funeral : ” this is the first indication I have ever had that there is a God.”
Justice Frank Murphy professional motto while practicing as a lawyer was:” all clients are bastards.”
The book says Justice Tom Clark was one of the least intelligent and most corrupt justices ever to sit on the Supreme Court. A fixture of bribery and racketeering scandals. During his stint as US attorney general in the 1940s he was well known as a tool of organized crime. Harry Truman came to regret his appointment calling it: “My biggest mistake. It isn’t so much that he is a bad man, it’s just that he’s such a dumb son of a bitch.”
Justice William Brennan told his friends upon taking his seat on the Supreme Court ” I am the mule in the Kentucky Derby. I don’t expect to distinguish myself, but I do expect to benefit by the Association.”
Justice Lewis Powell always regretted having given up his law practice for a seat on the Supreme Court. One day, while having lunch with Larry Brown, the star running back for the Washington Redskins, asked the justice whether he preferred being a lawyer or being on the Supreme Court. Powell said: ” Would you rather be a player or a referee?”