Robert H. Jackson Center

Supreme Court Opinions

Jackson portrait in Supreme Court robes

As the Supreme Court recessed for the summer on June 2, 1941, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes announced his intention to retire. On June 12th, President Roosevelt nominated Associate Justice Harlan Fiske Stone to succeed Hughes as Chief Justice of the United States and Attorney General Jackson to succeed Stone as Associate Justice. Jackson's nomination was confirmed by the Senate on July 7, 1941. On July 11, Jackson took the judicial oath at the White House and received his commission as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Justice Jackson served on the Supreme Court for more than thirteen Terms, from his appointment in 1941 until his sudden death just after the start of the Court's new Term in October 1954. Justice Jackson was absent for the Court's entire October Term 1945, which was the year he spent as the American Chief of Counsel prosecuting the principal Nazi leaders before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

As a Supreme Court Justice, Jackson quickly became known for his independent judging and his eloquent written opinions. His opinions are hard to pigeonhole because, unlike some of his colleagues on the Court, he did not vote reflexively for either individual litigants claiming that their protected liberties had been violated or for government officials claiming legal power to act in various ways. Justice Jackson's votes and opinions explain and defend, in varying contexts, both the constitutional rights of individuals and the constitutional powers of national and state governments. He was keenly attentive to the facts of each case and brought a practical wisdom, clearly expressed, to each decision in which he wrote for the Court or himself. Justice Jackson, unlike some other Justices, did virtually all of his own opinion-drafting. His acclaimed opinions and rhetorical gems thus truly reflect his own efforts and skills.