Question of the Week

Who are the all-time great US Supreme Court justices?


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Last week at Bloomberg View, Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein endeavored to name the greatest U.S. Supreme Court justices among the 112 who have served.

“It makes sense to consider two factors: historical significance and legal ability,” Sunstein wrote. “It would be too contentious to include only those justices with whom one agrees, so let’s make this list ideology-free. We’ll also exclude the current justices, because it is too early to tell whether any will count among the all-time greats.”

Among Sunstein’s picks are Justice Louis Brandeis and Justice Felix Frankfurter. But the Volokh Conspiracy’s Will Baude, a law professor at the University of Chicago, takes issue with those picks.

“What are Brandeis and Frankfurter doing on this list?” Baude wrote. “Both of them are famous and had plenty of accomplishments off the bench, but the case for their significance (or ability) as Justices is weak.” Baude was stunned that Hugo Black did not make Sunstein’s list.

So this week, we’d like to ask you: Who are the all-time great U.S. Supreme Court justices? (Here is a list for your reference.) It’s up to you whether you follow Sunstein’s recommended criteria, but explain in your answer why you picked who you picked.

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Do law firms care what classes new lawyers took in law school?

Featured answer:

Posted by Charlie: “When I was a public defender manager interviewing attorney applicants, I would ask about their favorite or most interesting courses in law school, looking for something that manifested some sort of commitment to criminal defense or the criminal law in general. Since the small firm where I’ve worked for the past 19 years emphasizes our criminal defense practice, I sometimes ask applicants the same kind of questions to see if they are really interested in doing what we do, or are just eager (desperate?) for a job and a paycheck.”

Do you have an idea for a future question of the week? If so, contact us.

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