J is for Justices

The only way a Supreme Court Justice can be removed is through impeachment (indictment) by the House of Representatives, and conviction by the Senate.


On the United States Supreme Court, the nine judges are called justices. There have been 110 justices since 1789, with 17 of them having served as Chief Justice, not counting some in temporary positions due to the death or retirement of the Chief Justice.

Someone nominated by the President, and ratified by the U.S. Senate by a majority vote, can serve for life. The idea was that the judiciary not be affected by the whims of pedestrian politics. Not that that hasn’t happened on occasion.

Here’s a list of Supreme Court members. I can tell that this picture was taken after the 2006 retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman ever to serve on the high court, replaced by Samuel Alito, and before the 2009 retirement of David Souter. There is a particular order in these pictures. The Chief Justice, in this case, John Roberts, is always front and center, literally. To his left, from your point of view, is the justice with the most seniority, in this case, 2010 retiree John Paul Stevens. To the right of the CJ is the next person in terms of seniority, Antonin Scalia, followed by (far left front) Anthony Kennedy, (far right front) Souter, (near left back) Clarence Thomas, (near right back) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, (far left back) Stephen Breyer and (far right back) Alito.

Here are the biographies of the current Court members, plus recent retirees.

Only four Presidents have never gotten a nomination confirmed: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson (who did try), and Jimmy Carter. Of those, only Carter served a full term as President, though Johnson, who was impeached, nearly did.

And speaking of impeachment, the only way a Supreme Court Justice can be removed is through impeachment (indictment) by the House of Representatives, and conviction by the Senate. And only one justice, Samuel Chase has ever been impeached, though not convicted.

The first Roman Catholic on the bench was Roger Taney (1836), the chief justice who delivered the dreadful Dred Scott decision (1857). The first Jewish person was Louis Brandeis in 1916. So it is interesting that the current court consists of six Catholics, three Jews, and none of the Protestants who had dominated the courts for centuries.


The first black on the bench was Thurgood Marshall (1967), who appeared before the court in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) anti-discrimination case; Clarence Thomas is the second. Marshall is not the only justice to move from lawyer before the court to justice on the court; e.g., Abe Fortas was the lead attorney in Gideon v. Wainwright (1962), which ruled that state courts are required under the Sixth Amendment to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys.

The first woman, as noted, was Sandra Day O’Connor (1981). There are now three women on the court, and there have been four in total. In the current picture, Thomas and Bader Ginsburg have made it to the front row. The newbies are Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Court (2009), and Elena Kagan.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

37 thoughts on “J is for Justices”

  1. Always learning-every ABC Wednesday sees my brain grow a little more! lol! Thanks Roger. Always so interesting.
    Denise

  2. Our legal system is different from the Anglo Saxon system, but though many of my husbands relatives were lawyers and judges, I don’t know how the law is represented. This is a very educational post Roger.
    About judo: Yes we are a dangerous family!!! šŸ˜‰

  3. Terrific, informative post for the J Day! Learned a couple of things I didn’t know about the “Justices”! But then I always learn something from your posts! Thank you! Hope your week is going well!

    Sylvia

  4. Its funny that just yesterday Hubby and I were listening to a radio program where all the questions were about the Supreme Court. We couldn’t answer who the 3 current women on the court were. Got 2 but missed the 3rd. Somehow Elena Kagan has slipped below our radar.
    Thanks for your interesting post.

  5. Excellent post, as always. I’m generally confused when the rulings come down and turn out to be split by political ideology.

  6. Always a good read, and a learning experience. Thanks for all the time and research you put into your ABC Wednesdays.

  7. The “Up All Night” radio strand over here sometimes covers the supreme court (they talk to countries that are awake when the UK sleeps). Your interesting post puts all this in a historic context

  8. How interesting all that was. I am just so glad I am not in school and would have to remember all of this. I never knew about the seating arrangement before, that is interesting. Now if the old grays could just remember all of this.

  9. This is very interesting. Only two Justices I knew, Sotomayor and John Robert I think because they are new? I hope I am right there ^_^ I learned in this post thank you!
    ABC Wednesday

  10. Thank you for such an great informative post, Roger. I am interested that all your Justices are men, and that the first and only woman retired in 2006. Here in Canada there are a number of Women Justices, and I think quite a few of them are quite outspoken.

  11. Sad but true, as I’ve mentioned before, most people in our country can more readily name the judges on American Idol than they can our Supreme Court Judges

  12. That’s interesting about the religious make up of the current Supreme Court. I wonder if that came into play when the majority decided that corporations have rights like people. I can only hope that the very conservative members will mature soon.

  13. Roger, great summary of the Supreme Court today and the history relevant to today’s make-up of the Court. You have a way with words. By the way, there is a jabot in the final picture of today’s justices!

  14. WHat a great jaunt learning about the justices! Thanks.

    [By the way, I carrying over the badge for ABC Wednesdays but couldn’t figure out how to do it. I am giving shout outs until I can figure it out. Feel free to advise)

  15. Fabulous history lesson. Many times I’ve had very mixed reactions to their decisions, but I always respect the position.

  16. That was absolutely new for me, Roger! Thank you for the lesson on this amazing post!

    Kisses from Nydia.

  17. Thanks for the quick recap. The American judicial is a very good system, although they may not have always meted out “justice”…

  18. as always a very interesting post Roger! RYC: Yes, solar panels on the jail. How about that, we’re very ecological here.

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