Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Who was the most consequential Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?

Who's the most consequential chief justice of them all? According to Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Brief, an unscientific survey of 377 judges concluded that Earl Warren, who wrote the unanimous landmark opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, was the most consequential.

The National Judicial College sends out a monthly, U.S. history-themed question to alumni who have attended its courses for new and experienced judges. For the chief justice question, judges were allowed to vote for three of the 17 chief justices.

Warren edged out the chief justice whom many legal historians considered to have had the most impact: John Marshall, the fourth and longest-serving chief justice and author of the seminal Marbury v. Madison. Marshall garnered 263 votes to Warren's 271.

In third place, with 81 votes, was Warren Burger, who succeeded Warren as chief justice and served from 1969 until 1986. The Burger court delivered such landmark rulings as Roe v. Wade, Furman v. Georgia, and United States v. Nixon.

Other chief justices who received votes were: William Rehnquist (75), John Jay (49), John Roberts (25), Roger Taney (22), William H. Taft (19), Charles E. Hughes (14), Harlan F. Stone (8), Salmon P. Chase (6), Frederick M. Vinson (3) and John Rutledge (2). Oliver Ellsworth, Morrison R. Waite, and Edward D. White received one vote each.

Only one of the 17 chiefs, Melville Fuller, who led the court from 1888 to 1910, received no votes. 

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