Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: October 16, 1898

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

10/16/1898: Justice William O. Douglas's birthday.

Justice William O. Douglas

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  1. Douglas was probably not the worst jurist to serve on the court, not the worst human being, but impressively high on both scales.

    1. I mean, results do matter, so there’s no way you can put him over some of the post-Civil War types who neutered the Reconstruction Amendments and such.

      But in terms of legal reasoning, he was as bad as it gets. He just didn’t care. You can read Griswold 100 times and you can’t divine a sensible legal doctrine from it. He made ridiculous pronouncements like that our institutions presuppose the existence of a Supreme Being. His First Amendment jurisprudence consisted of pretending the balancing of competing interests that make free speech cases so difficult didn’t exist. He tried to rule the Vietnam War unconstitutional, but joined the Korematsu majority.

      He was just pretty damned bad at his job, which is why he really has had almost no influence on the law.

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