Robert H. Jackson: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert H. Jackson

Robert H. Jackson, c. 1945

In office
July 11, 1941 – October 9, 1954
Nominated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Preceded by Harlan Fiske Stone
Succeeded by John Marshall Harlan II

In office
January 18, 1940 – August 25, 1941
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Preceded by Frank Murphy
Succeeded by Francis Biddle

Born February 13, 1892(1892-02-13)
Spring Creek Township, Pennsylvania
Died October 9, 1954 (aged 62)
Washington, D.C.

Robert Houghwout Jackson (February 13, 1892–October 9, 1954) was United States Attorney General (1940–1941) and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941–1954). He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. A "county-seat lawyer", he remains the last Supreme Court justice appointed who did not graduate from any law school (though Justice Stanley Reed who served from 1938-1957 was the last such justice to serve on the court). He is remembered for his famous advice, that "...any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances."[1]


Early life

Born in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania, and raised in Frewsburg, New York, Jackson graduated from Frewsburg High School in 1909 and spent the next year as a post-graduate student attending Jamestown High School in Jamestown, New York. Jackson did not attend college as an undergraduate. At age 18, he went to work as an apprentice in a Jamestown law office, then attended Albany Law School, in Albany, New York, where he completed the second year of the two-year program. During the summer of 1912, Jackson returned to Jamestown. He apprenticed again for the next year. He passed the New York Bar Exam in 1913 at the age of 21 and set up practice in Jamestown, New York. Over the next 20 years, he became a very successful lawyer in New York State and, through bar association activities, a rising young lawyer nationally.

U.S. Federal appointments and politics, 1934–1940

Jackson was appointed to federal office by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934. Jackson served initially as general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue (today's Internal Revenue Service). In 1936, Jackson became Assistant Attorney General heading the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, and in 1937 he became Assistant Attorney General heading the Antitrust Division. In 1938, Jackson became United States Solicitor General, serving until January 1940 as the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Jackson was a prominent member of the New Deal, litigating against the excesses of wealthy corporations and utility holding companies.[2] He participated in the 1934 prosecution of Samuel Insull[3], the 1935 income tax case against Andrew Mellon,[4][5][6] and the 1937 anti-trust case against Alcoa, in which the Mellon family held an important interest.[7]

President Roosevelt regarded him as a potential heir, and in 1937 considered having him run for Governor of New York. Jackson was a fellow Democrat, fellow country squire, and fellow Dutch-American.[2]

U.S. Attorney General, 1940–1941

Jackson was appointed Attorney General by Roosevelt in 1940, replacing Frank Murphy. As Attorney General, Jackson supported a bill introduced by Sam Hobbs that would have legalized wiretapping by the FBI, or any other government agency, if it was suspected that a felony was occurring.[8] The bill was opposed by FCC chairman James Lawrence Fly, and did not pass.[9]

When Harlan Fiske Stone replaced the retiring Charles Evans Hughes as Chief Justice in 1941, Roosevelt appointed Jackson to the resulting vacant Associate's seat.

U.S. Supreme Court, 1941–1954

In 1943, Jackson wrote the majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), which overturned a public school regulation making it mandatory to salute the flag and imposing penalties of expulsion and prosecution upon students who failed to comply. Jackson's stirring language in Barnette concerning individual rights is widely quoted. Jackson's concurring opinion in 1952's Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (forbidding President Harry Truman's seizure of steel mills during the Korean War to avert a strike), where Jackson formulated a three-tier test for evaluating claims of presidential power, remains one of the most widely cited opinions in Supreme Court history (it was quoted repeatedly by Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito during their recent confirmation hearings).


Feud with Black

Justices Jackson and Hugo Black had profound professional and personal disagreements dating back to October 1941, the first term in which they served together on the Supreme Court. According to Dennis Hutchinson, editor of The Supreme Court Review, Jackson objected to Black’s practice of importing his personal preferences into his jurisprudence.[10] Hutchinson quotes Jackson as having remarked, “With few exceptions, we all knew which side of a case Black would vote on when he read the names of the parties.”[11] While Hutchinson points out that Jackson objected to Black's style of jurisprudence in such cases as Minersville v. Gobitis (1940) and United States v. Bethlehem Steel (1942), Black’s involvement in the Jewell Ridge case struck Jackson as especially injudicious.

In Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers (1945), the Supreme Court faced the issue of whether to grant the coal company’s petition for rehearing on the grounds that the victorious miners were, in a previous matter, represented by Crampton P. Harris, who was Justice Black’s former law partner and personal lawyer. Despite this apparent conflict of interest, Black lobbied the Court for a per curiam denial of the petition. Justice Jackson objected, with the result that Jackson filed a concurrence disassociating himself from the ruling and, by implication, criticizing Black for not addressing the conflict of interest. Jackson also strongly objected to Black’s judicial conduct in Jewell Ridge for another reason. As Jackson later alleged, while Justice Murphy was preparing his opinion, Black urged that the court hand down its decision without waiting for the opinion and dissent. In Jackson’s eyes, the "only apparent reason behind this proposal was to announce the decision in time to influence the contract negotiations during the coal strike" between the coal company and the miners, which was taking place at the time.[12]

Jackson probably regarded Black’s conduct as unbecoming of a Supreme Court Justice in another related matter. On April 3, 1945, The Southern Conference for Human Welfare held a dinner, at which it honored Justice Black as the 1945 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award. Fred M. Vinson, interestingly, spoke at the dinner. While Jackson declined an invitation to the event, citing a conflict arising out of the fact that a number of leading sponsors of the dinner were then litigants before the Supreme Court, Black attended the dinner and received his award. Crampton Harris, counsel in two pending cases, Jewell Ridge and CIO v. McAdory (1945), was one of the sponsors.[13]

Jackson would later take these grievances public in two public cables from Nuremberg. Jackson had informally been promised the Chief Justiceship by Roosevelt; however, the seat came open while Jackson was in Germany, and FDR was no longer alive. President Harry S. Truman was faced with two factions, one recommending Jackson for the seat, the other advocating Hugo Black. In an attempt to avoid controversy, Truman appointed Fred M. Vinson. Jackson blamed machinations by Black for his being passed over for the seat and publicly exposed some of Black's controversial behavior and feuding within the Court. The controversy was heavily covered in the press and cast the New Deal Court in a negative light and had the unfortunate effect of tarnishing Jackson's reputation in the years that followed.

On June 8, 1946, Jackson sent a cable to President Truman. Jackson’s cable to Truman began with an insincere offer of congratulations to the President for his appointment of Vinson. But, the cable then quickly addressed the rumor, which Jackson had gotten wind of in Nuremberg, that Truman had appointed Fred Vinson in part to avert a resignation on the part of Justice Black. Rumors had been circulating in Washington that Black would resign in the event that Truman chose Jackson as Chief Justice Stone’s successor. "I would be loathe to believe that you would concede to any man a veto over court appointments".[14] Jackson closed his cable by stating that he could not continue his service as an Associate Justice under Vinson if an associate "had something on [him]", which would disqualify him from serving, or if he, Truman, regarded Jackson’s opinion in the Jewell Ridge case as a "gratuitous insult" to Justice Black.[15]

After receiving a response from Truman in which he denied having given consideration to, or having even heard of, the rumor of Black’s threatened resignation, Jackson rashly fired off a second cable to Congress on June 10. This cable stated Jackson's reasons for his belief that Justice Black faced a conflict of interest in Jewell Ridge, from which he wrongfully, at least, in Jackson's eyes, did not recuse himself, and ended with Jackson's threat that if such a practice "is ever repeated while I am on the bench I will make my Jewell Ridge opinion look like a letter of recommendation by comparison".[16]

Jackson and Dennis v. United States

1. The Clear and Present Danger Test

In order to understand Jackson’s concurrence in Dennis v. United States, a basic understanding of the origin of the clear and present danger test is helpful.

In 1919, the Supreme Court decided Schenck v. United States.[17] In Schenck, the petitioners, members of the Socialist Party, were convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 for printing and distributing circulars asserting that American citizens had a right to oppose the draft during World War I because, among other things, it violated the United States Constitution.[18] The Schenck Court promulgated the clear and present danger test which provided the standard for sustaining a conviction when speech is relied upon as evidence that an offense has been committed.[19] Justice Holmes, writing for a unanimous court, affirmed the convictions of the lower court positing:

“We admit that in many places and in ordinary time the defendants in saying all that was said in the circular would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. . . . The question in every case is whether words used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.”[20]

For more on the Clear and Present Danger Test, see Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, 957 (Aspen 2ed. 2002) (the clear and present danger test appears to have three analytical elements: (1) probability of harm, (2) temporality of harm, and (3) degree of harm).

2. Dennis v. United States

a. Background

In 1951, the Supreme Court decided Dennis v. United States.[21] In Dennis, the Petitioners were zealous Communists who organized for the purpose of teaching the “Marxist-Leninist Doctrine”.[22] The principal texts used to teach the doctrine were: History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; Foundations of Leninism by Stalin; The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels; and State and Revolution by Lenin.[15] The Petitioners were convicted for violating §2 and §3 of the Smith Act which, among other things, made it unlawful to conspire to organize a group which advocates the overthrow of the United States government by force of violence.[23] The issue before the Supreme Court was “[w]hether either §2 or §3 of the Smith Act, inherently or as construed and applied in the instant case, violates the First Amendment of other provisions of the Bill of Rights…”[24]

b. Jackson's Concurrence

In Dennis, Jackson concludes that the clear and present danger test (the “Test”) should not be applied.[25] To this end, Jackson analyzed: the effect Communists had outside the United States; the nature of Communists; and the problems with applying the Test. Jackson’s analysis can be summarized as follows:

On the effect Communists historically had on foreign countries, Jackson analyzed their effect on Czechoslovakia.[26] In Czechoslovakia, a Communists organization disguised as a competing political faction secretly established its roots in key control positions “of police and information services”.[15] During a period of national crisis a clandestine Communist organization appeared and successfully overthrew the Czechoslovakian government.[15] Establishing control of mass communication and industry, the Communist organization’s rule was one of “oppression and terror”.[15] Ironically, as Jackson points out, the Communist organization suppressed the very freedoms which made its conspiracy possible.[15]

On the nature of Communists, Jackson characterizes them as an extraordinarily dedicated and highly selective group disciplined and indoctrinated by Communist policy.[27] The goal of Party members is to secretly infiltrate key positions of government, industry, and unions and to leverage their power once in such positions.[15] Jackson goes on to say that although “Communist[s] have no scruples against sabotage, terrorism, assassination, or mob disorder …” they “advocate[] force only when prudent” which “may never be necessary, because infiltration and deception may be enough.”[28]

On the problems with applying the Test in Dennis, Jackson deems significant that the Test was authored “before the era of World War II revealed the subtlety and efficacy of modernized revolutionary technique used by totalitarian parties.”[29] Jackson believed that the application of the test should be limited to cases bearing strong enough likeness to those for which it was originally crafted – i.e. “criminality of hot-headed speech on a street corner, or parading by some zealots behind a red flag, or refusal of a handful of school children to salute our flag …”[15] Expressing strong concern that the expansive construction the Court had recently given the Test in Bridges v. State of California[30], Jackson asserted that the Test provided Communists with “unprecedented immunities” while “Government is captive in a judge-made verbal trap”.[29] Jackson goes on to describe the application of the Test to Communists when determining the constitutionality of the Smith Act facially or as applied as one of “apprais[ing] imponderables, including international and national phenomena which baffle the best informed foreign offices and our most experienced politicians”[31]

Jackson concludes his First Amendment analysis in Dennis by asserting that:

“The authors of the clear and present danger test never applied it to a case like this, nor would I. If applied as it is proposed here, it means that the Communist plotting is protected during its period of incubation; its preliminary stages of organization and preparation are immune from the law; the Government can move only after imminent action is manifest, when it would, of course, be too late.”[15]

c. Conclusion

In the end the Court applied its own version of the clear and present danger test in Dennis[32] essentially disregarding the analytical elements of probability and temporality which had previously appeared to be requirements of the doctrine.[33] Jackson, however, as one commentator put it, expressed in Dennis (at least with regards to Communists) that “when used as part of a conspiracy to act illegally, speech loses its First Amendment protection.”[34]

Jackson’s hardened stance on the First Amendment in Dennis may be attributed to strong anticommunist sentiment which had a grip on Americans during the time of the decision.[35] In William Wiecek’s article discussing the history of anticommunism in the United States, Wiecek’s asserts that:

“[T]he manufactured image of the domestic Communist, cultivated and propagated by [J. Edgar] Hoover, the Catholic Church, the American Legion, and political opportunists, made of Communists something less than full humans, full citizens, fully rights-endowed. Even sophisticated jurists like … Robert Jackson were captives of that image, anesthetizing [his] sensitivity to deprivation of rights.[36]... In Dennis and other Communist cases between 1950 and 1956, the Supreme Court overcame the problem of facts not supporting the results it was determined to reach by accepting a generic ‘proof’ of Communism’s seditious nature. Disregarding all evidence of both the Party’s and individual members’ renunciation of violence, the Court substituted literary evidence from outdated classics of Marxism-Leninism, most written by Europeans of an earlier era, and refused to consider whether the living people before them actually subscribed to those doctrines…”[37]

For more on the evolution of anticommunism in the United States leading up to the Dennis decision, see generally William M. Wiecek, The Legal Foundation of Domestic Anticommunism: The Background of Dennis v. United States, 2001 Sup. Ct. Rev. 375, 429 (2001).

Justice Jackson and Brown v. Board of Education

One of Jackson's law clerks during 1952-53, William H. Rehnquist, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 and became Chief Justice in 1986. In December 1971, after Rehnquist's nomination had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was pending before the full Senate, a 1952 memorandum came to light that he had written as Jackson's law clerk in connection with the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education that argued in favor of affirming the separate-but-equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. Rehnquist wrote a brief letter attributing the views to Jackson and was confirmed. In his 1986 hearing he was questioned about the matter. His explanation of the memorandum was disputed in both 1971 and 1986 by Jackson's former secretary, and scholars have questioned its plausibility. However, the papers of Justices Douglas and Frankfurter indicate that Justice Jackson only voted for Brown in 1954 after changing his mind.[38]

The ultimate views of Justice Jackson about Brown can be found in his 1954 unpublished draft concurrence.[39][40][41] The “Memorandum by Mr. Justice Jackson, March 15, 1954”, is publicly available with Jackson’s papers in the Library of Congress and did not become publicly available until after Rehnquist’s 1986 hearing for Chief Justice of the United States. Jackson’s draft concurrence in Brown, divided into four parts, shows how he struggled with how to write an effective opinion to strike down segregation. In Part 1 of Jackson’s draft concurrence in Brown, he wrote that he went to school where “Negro pupils were very few” and that he was “predisposed to the conclusion that segregation elsewhere has outlived whatever justification it may have had.” Despite his own opinions regarding desegregation, Jackson acknowledged the inability of the Court to "eradicate" the "fears, prides and prejudices" that made segregation an important social practice in the South. Jackson thus concluded that the Northerners on the court should be sensitive to the conditions that brought segregation to the South.

In Part 2 of the draft memorandum, Justice Jackson described the legal framework for forbidding segregation in “DOES EXISTING LAW CONDEMN SEGREGATION?”. Jackson notes the difficulty for the court that was "supposed not to make new law but only to declare existing law," to overturn a decision of such longevity as Plessy. Looking at the doctrine of original intent with regard to the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Jackson found no evidence that segregation was prohibited, particularly since states that ratified the Fourteenth Amendment had segregated schools at the time. Jackson concluded, "I simply cannot find in the conventional material of constitutional interpretation any justification for saying" that segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Part 3 of the draft memorandum titled “ENFORCEMENT POWER LIMITS” describes enforcement by Congress of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jackson addressed the possibility of leaving enforcement to Congress, particularly because the “courts have no power to enforce general declarations of law." Jackson noted that while segregation was already fading in some states, it would be difficult to overcome in those states where segregation was firmly established. While Jackson recognized the difficulties in the Supreme Court enforcing its judgment, he did not want the task to be left to the lower courts as suggested by the Government. Jackson concluded that the court must act because “our representative system has failed” and even though this “premise is not a sound basis for judicial action."

Finally, in Part 4 of the draft memorandum “CHANGED CONDITIONS” Jackson began by stating that prior to Brown, segregation was legal. According to Jackson, the premise for overruling Plessy was the now erroneous "factual assumption" that "there were differences between the Negro and the white races, viewed as a whole." The draft asserted that the "spectacular" progress of African-Americans, under adverse circumstances, "enabled [them] to outgrow the system and to overcome the presumptions on which it was based." Jackson emphasized that the changed conditions along with the importance of a public education required the court to strike down separate but equal in public education. While Jackson could not justify the decision in Brown in law, he did so on the basis of a political and social imperative. It is unknown if Jackson ever intended to publish this concurrence.

Justice Jackson was in the hospital from March 30 to May 17, 1954. It is reported that Chief Justice Warren visited Jackson in the hospital several times and discussed both Jackson’s draft opinion and Warren’s drafts. One suggestion that Warren took from Jackson was adding “Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences as well as in the business and professional world.” [39] This quote is tied to the arguments in Part 4 of Jackson’s draft opinion. On May 17, 1954, Jackson went to the Court from the hospital so he could be there the day the Brown decision was handed down. When the Brown decision was handed down, a full court was present to emphasize the unanimity of the decision. Robert H. Jackson died on October 8, 1954 and so there was not enough time between Brown and the death of Jackson to fully explore his views on desegregation.

International Military Tribunal, 1945–1946

In 1945, President Truman appointed Jackson, who took a leave of absence from the Supreme Court, to serve as U.S. chief of counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. He helped draft the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which created the legal basis for the Nuremberg Trials. He then served in Nuremberg, Germany, as United States chief prosecutor at the international Nuremberg trial. Jackson pursued his prosecutorial role with a great deal of vigor (for instance, referring in arguments to Hermann Göring as being "half militarist, half gangster"). His opening and closing arguments before the Nuremberg court are widely considered among the best speeches of the 20th century. In the words of defendant Albert Speer:

The trial began with the grand, devastating opening address by the chief American prosecutor, Justice Robert H. Jackson. But I took comfort from one sentence in it which accused the defendants of guilt for the regime's crimes, but not the German people.[42]


Jackson died in Washington, DC, at the age of 62 and, after funeral services in Washington's National Cathedral and then in Jamestown's St. Luke's Church, was interred near his boyhood home in Frewsburg, New York.

Jackson was played by Alec Baldwin in the 2000 TNT television film Nuremberg, based on the novel Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, by Joseph E. Persico, which recounted the trial at which Jackson served as chief U.S. prosecutor. (Jackson's bodyguard at this trial, former Army Staff Sergeant Moritz Fuchs, stated in January 2005 that the movie's implication of a romance between Jackson and his secretary did not in fact occur).

An extensive collection of Jackson's personal and judicial papers is archived at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress and open for research. Smaller collections are available at several other repositories.

Portrayal in popular culture

Robert H. Jackson has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions;[43]

See also


  1. ^ Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49, 59.
  2. ^ a b Shlaes, Amity (2007). The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (1st edn ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 344–349. ISBN 0-06-621170-0.  
  3. ^ Shlaes, Amity (2007). The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (1st edn ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 189–191. ISBN 0-06-621170-0.  
  4. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur Meier (2003) [1959]. The Coming of the New Deal, 1933-1935. Age of Roosevelt (1st Mariner Books ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 569. ISBN 0618340866. OCLC 51978038. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  5. ^ SHLAES, AMITY (2006-10-02). "The Greenspan Of His Day, a book review of Mellon: An American Life (by David Cannadine)". New York Sun (New York). Retrieved 2008-01-20. "Mellon's opponents never did win convictions."  
  6. ^ "Self-Defense". Time. 1935-04-15.,9171,771717-2,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  7. ^ "Round for Mellon". Time. 1937-05-24.,9171,848675,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  8. ^ U.S. House Subcommittee no. 1 of the Committee on the Judiciary, To Authorize Wire Tapping. Hearings on H.R. 2266, H.R. 3099, 77th Cong., 1st sess., 1941, 1, 257
  9. ^ Childs, Marquis W. (March 18, 1941). "House Committee Approval Likely on Wire-Tapping". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: pp. 3.   Section A.
  10. ^ Dennis J. Hutchison, The Black-Jackson Feud, 1988 Sup.Ct.Rev. 203 (1988).
  11. ^ Id. at 230.
  12. ^ Id. at 208.
  13. ^ Id. at 236-37
  14. ^ Id. at 220.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Id.
  16. ^ Id. at 221.
  17. ^ Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  18. ^ Id. at 49-51.
  19. ^ Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 505-507. see also, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447 (1969).
  20. ^ 249 U.S. 47, 52.
  21. ^ 341 U.S. 494
  22. ^ Id. at 582 (Douglas, J. Dissenting)
  23. ^ Id. at 495; see also, 54 Stat. 671.
  24. ^ Id. at 495-496.
  25. ^ Id. 570.
  26. ^ Id. at 565-566.
  27. ^ Id. at 564.
  28. ^ Id. at 564-565.
  29. ^ a b Id. at 568.
  30. ^ Id. at 568 n.12 (1951) (distinguishing Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 376 (1927) from Bridges v. State of California, 314 U.S. 252, 263 (1941)).
  31. ^ Id. at 570.
  32. ^ Id. at 510-511.
  33. ^ Erwin Chemrensky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, 961, 962 (Aspen 2ed. 2002)
  34. ^ Martin H. Redish, Unlawful Advocacy and Free Speech Theory: Rethinking the Lessons of The McCarthy Era, 73 UCINLR 9, 51 (2004).
  35. ^ see generally, William M. Wiecek, The Legal Foundation of Domestic Anticommunism: The Background of Dennis v. United States, T 2001 Sup. Ct. Rev. 375, 429 (2001).
  36. ^ Id. at 429.
  37. ^ Id. at 434.
  38. ^ Justice William O. Douglas wrote: “In the original conference there were only four who voted that segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Those four were Black, Burton, Minton, and myself.” See Bernard Schwartz, Decision: How the Supreme Court Decides Cases, page 96 (Oxford 1996). Likewise, Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote: “I have no doubt that if the segregation cases had reached decision last term, there would have been four dissenters – Vinson, Reed, Jackson, and Clark.” Id.
  39. ^ a b Schwartz, Bernard (1988), "Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Jackson, and the "Brown" Case", Supreme Court Review 1988 (1988): 245–267.,  
  40. ^ Tushnet, Mark; Lezin, Katya (1991), "What really happened in Brown v. Board of Education", Columbia Law Review 91: 1867, doi:10.2307/1123035  
  41. ^ Jackson, Robert (March 15, 1954), Memorandum by Mr. Justice Jackson, Brown file, Robert H Jackson Papers, Library of Congress  
  42. ^ Speer, Albert, Inside the Third Reich, page 513, Macmillan, New York 1970 (1982 reprint by Bonanza) ISBN 0-517-385791
  43. ^ "Justice Robert H. Jackson (Character)". Retrieved May 20, 2008.  

See also

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J., Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
  • Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789-1995 (2nd ed.) (Supreme Court Historical Society), (Congressional Quarterly Books, 2001) ISBN 1568021267; ISBN 9781568021263.
  • Frank, John P., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors) (Chelsea House Publishers: 1995) ISBN 0791013774, ISBN 978-0791013779.
  • Hockett, Jeffrey D. (1996). New Deal Justice: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Hugo L. Black, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert H. Jackson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0847682102 ISBN 9780847682102
  • Martin, Fenton S. and Goehlert, Robert U., The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography, (Congressional Quarterly Books, 1990). ISBN 0871875543.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing 1994). 590 pp. ISBN 0815311761; ISBN 978-0815311768.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Stanley Forman Reed
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
Francis Biddle
Preceded by
Frank Murphy
Attorney General of the United States
1940 – 1941
Preceded by
Harlan Fiske Stone
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
July 11, 1941 – October 9, 1954
Succeeded by
John Marshall Harlan II


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

We can afford no liberties with liberty itself.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-02-131954-10-09) was United States Attorney General (1940 - 1941) and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941–1954). He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.



Judicial opinions

  • The power of citizenship as a shield against oppression was widely known from the example of Paul's Roman citizenship, which sent the centurion scurrying to his higher-ups with the message: "Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman".
  • The mere state of being without funds is a neutral fact — constitutionally an irrelevance, like race, creed, or color.
    • Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 184 (1941).
  • This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.
  • Civil liberties had their origin and must find their ultimate guaranty in the faith of the people. If that faith should be lost, five or nine men in Washington could not long supply its want.
    • Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 182 (1943).
  • As to ethics, the parties seem to me as much on a parity as the pot and the kettle. But want of knowledge or innocent intent is not ordinarily available to diminish patent protection.
    • Mercoid Corporation v. Mid-Continent Investment Co., 320 U.S. 661, 679 (1944) (dissenting).
  • The price of freedom of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.
    • United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 95 (1944) (dissenting). Often incorrectly reported as "The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish".
  • A confession is wholly and incontestably voluntary only if a guilty person gives himself up to the law and becomes his own accuser.
    • Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 322 U.S. 143, 161 (1944).
  • The physical power to get the money does not seem to me a test of the right to tax. Might does not make right even in taxation. To hold that what the use of official authority may get the state may keep, and that if it cannot get hold of a nonresident stockholder it may hold the company as hostage for him, is strange constitutional doctrine to me.
    • International Harvester Co. v. Wisconsin Dept. of Taxation, 322 U.S. 435, 450 (1944).
  • Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that apart from the matter involved here he is not law abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
    A citizen's presence in this locality, however, was made a crime only if his parents were of Japanese birth. Had Korematsu been one of four - the others being, say, a German alien enemy, an Italian alien enemy, and a citizen of American-born ancestors, convicted of treason, but on parole - only Korematsu's presence would have violated the order. The difference between their innocence and his crime would result, not from anything he did, said, or thought, different than they, but only in that he was born of different racial stock.
    Now, if any fundamental assumption underlies our system, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable. Even if all of one's antecedents had been convicted of treason, the Constitution forbids its penalties to be visited upon him. But here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act a crime merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to resign. If Congress in peace-time legislation should enact such a criminal law, I should suppose this Court would refuse to enforce it.
  • [T]he effect of the religious freedom Amendment to our Constitution was to take every form of propagation of religion out of the realm of things which could directly or indirectly be made public business, and thereby be supported in whole or in part at taxpayers' expense. That is a difference which the Constitution sets up between religion and almost every other subject matter of legislation, a difference which goes to the very root of religious freedom[...] This freedom was first in the Bill of Rights because it was first in the forefathers' minds; it was set forth in absolute terms, and its strength is its rigidity. It was intended not only to keep the states' hands out of religion, but to keep religion's hands off the state, and, above all, to keep bitter religious controversy out of public life by denying to every denomination any advantage from getting control of public policy or the public purse.
  • I do not know whether it is the view of the Court that a judge must be thick-skinned or just thick-headed, but nothing in my experience or observation confirms the idea that he is insensitive to publicity. Who does not prefer good to ill report of his work? And if fame — a good public name — is, as Milton said, the "last infirmity of noble mind", it is frequently the first infirmity of a mediocre one.
    • Craig v. Harney, 331 U. S. 367, 396 (1947).
  • The Court's reasoning adds up to this: The Commission must be sustained because of its accumulated experience in solving a problem with which it had never before been confronted! I give up. Now I realize fully what Mark Twain meant when he said, 'The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.'
  • No one will question that this power is the most dangerous one to free government in the whole catalogue of powers. It usually is invoked in haste and excitement when calm legislative consideration of constitutional limitation is difficult. It is executed in a time of patriotic fervor that makes moderation unpopular. And, worst of all, it is interpreted by judges under the influence of the same passions and pressures. Always, as in this case, the Government urges hasty decision to forestall some emergency or serve some purpose and pleads that paralysis will result if its claims to power are denied or their confirmation delayed.
    • On the "war power"; Woods v. Cloyd W. Miller Co., 333 U.S. 138, 146 (1948) (concurring).
  • Under these circumstances, except for any personal humiliation involved in admitting that I do not always understand the opinions of this Court, I see no reason why I should be consciously wrong today because I was unconsciously wrong yesterday.
    • Massachusetts v. United States, 333 U.S. 611, 639-40 (1948) (dissenting).
  • But we have grounds to assume also that the normal proportion of them are subject to that very human weakness, especially displayed in Washington, which leads men to "crook the pregnant hinges of the knee where thrift may follow fawning."
    • Regarding persons employed by the government. Frazier v. United States, 335 U.S. 497, 515 (1948).
  • But we must not forget that in our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds — that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous.
  • Our protection against all kinds of fanatics and extremists, none of whom can be trusted with unlimited power over others, lies not in their forbearance but in the limitations of our Constitution.
    • American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 439 (1950).
  • The priceless heritage of our society is the unrestricted constitutional right of each member to think as he will. Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism, and we have no claim to it. It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. We could justify any censorship only when the censors are better shielded against error than the censored.
    • American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442-43 (1950).
  • I am entitled to say of that opinion what any discriminating reader must think of it---that it was as foggy as the statute the Attorney General was asked to interpret.
    • Reviewing a position that Jackson had taken as Attorney General, which he now felt should be overruled. McGrath v. Kristensen, 340 U.S. 162, 176 (1950) (concurring).
  • But an escape less self-depreciating was taken by Lord Westbury, who, it is said, rebuffed a barrister's reliance upon an earlier opinion of his Lordship: "I can only say that I am amazed that a man of my intelligence should have been guilty of giving such an opinion". If there are other ways of gracefully and good-naturedly surrendering former views to a better considered position, I invoke them all.
    • Quoting Lord Westbury. McGrath v. Kristensen, 340 U.S. 162, 178 (1950) (concurring).
  • The petitioner's problem is to avoid Scylla without being drawn into Charybdis.
    • Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Northwestern Public Service Co., 341 U.S. 246, 250 (1951).
  • It is only the words of the bill that have presidential approval, where that approval is given. It is not to be supposed that in signing a bill the President endorses the whole Congressional Record.
    • Schwegmann Bros. v. Calvert Distillers Corp., 341 U.S. 384, 396 (1951).
  • Men are more often bribed by their loyalties and ambitions than by money.
    • United States v. Wunderlich, 342 U.S. 98, 103 (1951).
  • Had the jury convicted on proper instructions it would be the end of the matter. But juries are not bound by what seems inescapable logic to judges.
    • Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 276 (U.S. 1952).
  • We can afford no liberties with liberty itself.
    • United States v. Spector, 343 US 169, 180 (1952) (dissenting).
  • It is possible to hold a faith with enough confidence to believe that what should be rendered to God does not need to be decided and collected by Caesar.
  • The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion it will cease to be free for religion - except for the sect that can win political power.
    • Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 325 (1952) (dissenting).
  • Nothing in our Constitution is plainer than that declaration of a war is entrusted only to Congress. Of course, a state of war may in fact exist without a formal declaration. But no doctrine that the Court could promulgate would seem to me more sinister and alarming than that a President whose conduct of foreign affairs is so largely uncontrolled, and often even is unknown, can vastly enlarge his mastery over the internal affairs of the country by his own commitment of the Nation's armed forces to some foreign venture.
  • No penance would ever expiate the sin against free government of holding that a President can escape control of executive powers by law through assuming his military role.
  • He who must search a haystack for a needle is likely to end up with the attitude that the needle is not worth the search.
  • Reversal by a higher court is not proof that justice is thereby better done. There is no doubt that if there were a super-Supreme Court, a substantial proportion of our reversals of state courts would also be reversed. We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.
  • We granted certiorari, and in this Court the parties changed positions as nimbly as if dancing a quadrille.
    • Orloff v. Willoughby, 345 U.S. 83, 87 (1953).
  • I should concur in this result more readily if the Court could reach it by analysis of the statute instead of by psychoanalysis of Congress. When we decide from legislative history, including statements of witnesses at hearings, what Congress probably had in mind, we must put ourselves in the place of a majority of Congressmen and act according to the impression we think this history should have made on them. Never having been a Congressman, I am handicapped in that weird endeavor. That process seems to me not interpretation of a statute but creation of a statute.
    • United States v. Public Utilities Commission, 345 U.S. 295, 319 (1953) (concurring).
  • But the validity of a doctrine does not depend on whose ox it gores.
    • Wells v. Simonds Abrasive Co., 345 U.S. 514, 525 (1953).
  • The duty to disclose knowledge of crime rests upon all citizens.
    • Stein v. New York, 346 U.S. 156, 184 (1953).

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that members of the Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag of the United States.

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.
  • Government of limited power need not be anemic government. Assurance that rights are secure tends to diminish fear and jealousy of strong government, and by making us feel safe to live under it makes for its better support.
    • 319 U.S. at 636.
  • The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.
    • 319 U.S. at 638.
  • We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.
    • 319 U.S. at 641.
  • Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.
    • 319 U.S. at 641.
  • We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
    • 319 U.S. at 641-42.
  • If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.
    • 319 U.S. at 642.

Quotes from the Nuremberg Trials (1945)

In 1945, at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Justice Jackson took leave from the Supreme Court to act as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials of accused Nazi war criminals.

If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure.
  • We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.
  • The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.
    • Opening Address to the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials (November 10, 1945).
  • If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure.
    • Opening Address to the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials (November 10, 1945).
  • We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.
    • Nuremberg Tribunal.
    • Opening Address to the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials (November 10, 1945).
  • If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.
    • International Conference on Military Trials, London, 1945, Dept. of State Pub.No. 3080 (1949), p.330.

Books and articles

  • The office of the lawyer, however poorly filled, is too delicate, personal and confidential to be occupied by a corporation.
    • "Functions of the Trust Company in the Field of Law", 52 New York State Bar Association Report 142 (1929).
  • Our people do not want barren theories from their democracy. Maury Maverick has expressed very quaintly, but clearly, what they really want when he says: 'We Americans want to talk, pray, think as we please — and eat regular'.
    • Speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco (1939), reported in Eugene C. Gerhart, America's Advocate: Robert H. Jackson (1958), p. 456.
  • He loved his profession, he had a real sense of dedication to the administration of justice, he held his head high as a lawyer, he rendered and exacted courtesy, honor and straightforwardness at the Bar. He respected the judicial office deeply, demanded the highest standards of competence and disinterestedness and dignity, despised all political use of or trifling with judicial power, and had an affectionate regard for every man who filled the exacting prescription of the just judge. The law to him was like a religion, and its practice was more than a means of support; it was a mission. He was not always popular in his community, but he was respected. Unpopular minorities and individuals often found in him their only mediator and advocate. He was too independent to court the populace - he thought of himself as a leader and lawgiver, not a mouthpiece.
    • Describing the unsung heroes of legal practice. "Tribute to Country Lawyers: A Review", 30 A.B.A Journal 139 (1944).
  • Often his name was, in a generation or two, forgotten. It was from this brotherhood that America has drawn its statesmen and its judges. A free and self-governing Republic stands as a monument for the little-known and unremembered as well as for the famous men of our profession.
    • "Tribute to Country Lawyers: A Review", 30 A.B.A Journal 139 (1944).
  • I used to say that, as Solicitor General, I made three arguments in every case. First came the one I had planned – as I thought, logical, coherent, complete. Second was the one actually presented – interrupted, incoherent, disjointed, disappointing. The third was the utterly devastating argument that I thought of after going to bed that night…
    • Advocacy Before the Supreme Court: Suggestions for Effective Case Presentations, 37 A.B.A Journal 801 (1951).
  • On your first appearance before the Court, do not waste your time and ours telling us so. We are likely to discover for ourselves that you are a novice but will think none the less of you for it. Every famous lawyer had his first day at our bar, and perhaps a sad one….Be respectful, of course, but also be self-respectful, and neither disparage yourself nor flatter the Justices. We think well enough of ourselves already.
    • Advocacy Before the Supreme Court: Suggestions for Effective Case Presentations, 37 A.B.A Journal 801 (1951).
  • When the Court moved to Washington in 1800, it was provided with no books, which probably accounts for the high quality of early opinions.
    • The Supreme Court in the American System of Government (1955), p. 30.
  • My philosophy has been and continues to be that [the Court] cannot and should not try to seize the initiative in shaping the policy of the law, either by constitutional interpretation or by statutory construction. While the line to be drawn between interpretation and legislation is difficult, and numerous dissents turn upon it, there is a limit beyond which the Court incurs the just charge of trying to supersede the law-making branches. Every Justice has been accused of legislating and every one has joined in that accusation of others. When the Court has gone too far, it has provoked reactions which have set back the cause it is designed to advance and has sometimes called down upon itself severe rebuke.
    • The Supreme Court in the American System of Government (1955), p. 79-80.
  • When we went to school we were told that we were governed by laws, not men. As a result of that, many people think there is no need to pay any attention to judicial candidates because judges merely apply the law by some mathematical formula and a good judge and a bad judge all apply the same kind of law. The fact is that the most important part of a judge's work is the exercise of judgment and that the law in a court is never better than the common sense judgment of the judge that is presiding.
    • Reported in Eugene Gerhart, America's Advocate: Robert H. Jackson (1958), p. 289.
  • Something happens to a man when he puts on a judicial robe, and I think it ought to. The change is very great and requires psychological change within a man to get into an attitude of deciding other people's controversies, instead of waging them. It really calls for quite a changed attitude. Some never make it - and I am not sure I have.
    • Reported in Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, 4 The Justices of the United States Supreme Court 1789-1969, 2563 (1969).

"The Federal Prosecutor" (1940)

"The Federal Prosecutor", 24 J. Am. Judicature Soc'y 18 (1940) (Address delivered at the Second Annual Conference of United States Attorneys, April 1, 1940).

  • The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation, than any other person in America.
  • Nothing better can come out of this meeting of law enforcement officers than a rededication to the spirit of fair play and decency that should animate the federal prosecutor. Your positions are of such independence and importance that while you are being diligent, strict, and vigorous in law enforcement you can also afford to be just. Although the government technically loses its case, it has really won if justice has been done.
  • The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman. And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway. A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen's safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.

The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy: A Study in Crisis in American Power Politics (1941)

  • For a century every contest with the Supreme Court has ended in evading the basic inconsistency between popular government and judicial supremacy.
    • P. vii.
  • While the Declaration was directed against an excess of authority, the Constitution was directed against anarchy.
    • P. 8.
  • Of course, such judicial misconstruction theoretically can be cured by constitutional amendment. But the period of gestation of a constitutional amendment, or of any law reform, is reckoned in decades usually; in years, at least. And, after all, as the Court itself asserted in overruling the minimum-wage cases, it may not be the Constitution that was at fault.
    • P. 297.

"The Task of Maintaining Our Liberties: The Role of the Judiciary" (1953)

"The Task of Maintaining Our Liberties: The Role of the Judiciary", 39 A.B.A. J. 961 (1953).

  • For over a century it has been the settled doctrine of the Supreme Court that the principle of stare decisis has only limited application in constitutional cases. It might be thought that if any law is to be stabilized by a court decision it logically should be the most fundamental of all law -- that of the Constitution. But the years brought about a doctrine that such decisions must be tentative and subject to judicial cancellation if experience fails to verify them. The result is that constitutional precedents are accepted only at their current valuation and have a mortality rate almost as high as their authors.
    • P. 962.
  • There is no such thing as an achieved liberty; like electricity, there can be no substantial storage and it must be generated as it is enjoyed, or the lights go out.
    • P. 962.
  • Not every defeat of authority is a gain for individual freedom, nor every judicial rescue of a convict a victory for liberty.
    • P. 964.


  • His speech breaks through the printed page. He was one of those rare men whose spoken word survives in type.
    • Felix Frankfurter, "Government Attorney: Foreword", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 437 (1955).
  • Self-reliance, good-humored tolerance, recognition of the other fellow's right to be and to thrive, even though you may not think he is as good as you are, suspicion of authority as well as awareness of its need, disdain of arrogance and self-righteousness, a preference for truculent independence over prudent deference and conformity - these were the feelings that shaped his outlook on life. He liked his kind without being sentimental about it; he was gregarious but shy about intimacies.
    • Felix Frankfurter, "Government Attorney: Foreword", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 437 (1955).
  • As Attorney General, Solicitor General, and Assistant Attorney General,…he lost but a single case in the Supreme Court. Against [that] may be tallied some twenty-seven arguments which he won.
    • Warner W. Gardner, "Government Attorney: Foreword", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 439 (1955).
  • He had a quiet courage, which never led to a bellow of defiance but which permitted him to take in every instance the action he thought best without discernible thought of criticism or personal injury. He was modest in manner, yet supremely confident of himself and his judgment. He had a calm which no crisis could disturb, and standards of honorable conduct which were both rigorous and unshakeable.
    • Warner W. Gardner, "Government Attorney: Foreword", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 439 (1955).
  • Robert Jackson represented the advocate at his best. He possessed the rare combination of a good jury personality and the qualities of a profound lawyer. He knew how to talk persuasively to a jury of Chautauqua County farmers, yet he could argue the points of law involved in the case with great learning and with unanswerable logic, either before the trial judge or an appellate court. He had high standards of craftsmanship as a lawyer; he was thorough and painstaking in preparation.
    • Philip Halpern, "Robert H. Jackson, 1892-1954", 8 Stanford L. Rev. 4 (1955).
  • He had a reservoir of learning, from which he drew gracefully and effortlessly. But the most marked quality of his judicial and non-judicial writing was not the ability to borrow an apt quotation or to find an idea well expressed by one who had written before him; it was the ability to think brilliantly in original and bold fashion and to express his thoughts in forceful and eloquent English of a style inimitably his own. His writing was pithy and pungent; yet he never sacrificed clarity of thought for a well-turned phrase. He was a master of the paradox; he had a great love of alliteration and his antithetical statements were gems. Yet his wit never descended to the frivolous; it always added a barb to the telling point. His wit was especially telling when turned upon himself or his Court.
    • Philip Halpern, "Robert H. Jackson, 1892-1954", 8 Stanford L. Rev. 4 (1955).
  • Nature had given him a bright, strong mind--it was one of the best three or four, possibly five, of the Court during his years of service. It was a disciplined mind--self disciplined, and sharpened by the varied incidents of a general practice. He had attended no college. His engaging style, his easy acquaintance with good literature, he had acquired for himself. Even in his one year of law school, his training had been in practical subjects taught by practical men. The assurance and courage that come from professional mastery, that too he had won for himself. So he became an exemplar of the best virtues we attribute to our tough common-law system. He thought in terms of concrete operations: a good judge should feel responsible for the practicality of his judgments. He displayed, too, a constant concern that the Court's pronouncements convey to the practitioner a workable rule of conduct. To his fingertips, he retained a feel for active practice. This was the American lawyer at his best. What he made of himself is an inspiration and a challenge to all who follow his calling.
    • Charles Fairman, "Associate Justice of the Supreme Court", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 486 (1955).
  • He will live in the living law of the Constitution.
    • Charles Fairman, "Associate Justice of the Supreme Court", 55 Columbia L. Rev. 486 (1955).

"Mr. Justice Jackson" (1955)

Felix Frankfurter, "Mr. Justice Jackson", 68 Harvard L. Rev. 938 (1955).

  • To an unusual degree in the history of the Court, Justice Jackson wrote as he felt. In his case the style was the man….He wrote as he talked and he talked as he felt. The fact that his opinions were written talk made them as lively as the liveliness of his talk.
  • He had 'impish candor', to borrow one of his own phrases. Candor, indeed, was one of his deepest veins.
  • There was nothing stuffy about him and therefore, nothing stuffy about his writing.
  • No man who ever sat on the Supreme Court, it seems to me, mirrored the man in him in his judicial work more completely than did Justice Jackson

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address