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Warren G. Harding Supreme Court candidates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

During his time in office, President Warren G. Harding appointed four members of the Supreme Court of the United States: Chief Justice William Howard Taft, and Associate Justices George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Edward Terry Sanford.

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  • ✪ Debs v. United States
  • ✪ American History - Part 157 - Wilson - Crippled - Treaty Rejected - Harding Elected
  • ✪ Eugene Debs


Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs Canton, Ohio June 16, 1918 Eugene Debs, the famous labor activist and five-time Socialist Party of America presidential candidate, gives a speech, opposing World War One. He is careful with his words, for he knows that, under the Sedition Act of 1918, he could go to prison for criticizing the war or President Woodrow Wilson. In his speech, he did not specifically mention World War One nor criticize President Wilson. Even so, Debs was pretty courageous to give this speech. I’ll have Mark Ruffalo read you a sample of it. “They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.” Two weeks later, police arrested Debs and charged him with breaking the Sedition Act. In federal court, Debs argued that he was justified giving the speech due to the First Amendment. He also argued that the Sedition Act was unconstitutional. At his trial, he gave a speech to the court that one journalist said was “one of the most beautiful and moving passages in the English language.” Apparently the court wasn’t all that moved. On November 18, 1918, they found Debs guilty. The judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison and said he could never vote again. Debs appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court. This was a time when the Court was looking at a lot of cases involving free speech. Three weeks before the Court heard arguments from Eugene Debs and his lawyers, they heard arguments for a case called Schenck v. United States. In this case, the Court ended up deciding that speech should be limited if it leads to people committing a crime. This was where the “clear and present danger” doctrine came from. Basically, if speech can directly lead to hurting the country, then the Court said it can be limited. So the Court checked out several statements that Debs had made regarding the war. In each one of them, Debs was careful to attempt to comply with the Sedition Act of 1918 and the rest of the Espionage Act. However, the Court ended up concluding that his ultimate goal with these statements was obstructing the draft and thus hurting the war effort. On March 10, 1919, in a unanimous opinion, the Court announced it agreed with the lower court, upholding Debs’ conviction. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr (OliWen in the house!) gave the opinion. Holmes admitted that the speech Debs got in trouble for was mostly just about socialism. However, Holmes argued that the speech also was meant to get people fired up against American involvement in World War One to a point where people resisted the draft. Eugene Debs went to prison on April 13, 1919. A protest of his imprisonment directly led to the May Day riots of 1919. But, I mean, in 1919 riots were totally the rage all across the country anyway. Even in prison, Debs wouldn’t shut his mouth. He remained politically active, writing a series of columns talking trash about the prison system. That make sense. Oh yeah, and he also ran for President from prison. Really. In the election of 1920, Debs got 3.4% of the popular vote, by far the most anyone has ever got running for President from prison. Debs. v United States was just one of several Supreme Court cases dealing with the limits of free speech that all took place right after World War One ended. It justified limited speech especially during times of crisis, like war. On December 13, 1920, Congress got rid of the Sedition Act. A year later, the new President, Warren Harding, freed Debs from prison. However, prison had taken a toll on his health. He died less than five years later. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury!


William Howard Taft nomination

On June 30, 1921, following the death of Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, President Warren G. Harding nominated former President William Howard Taft to take his place,[1] thereby fulfilling Taft's lifelong ambition to become Chief Justice of the United States. There was little opposition to the nomination, and the Senate approved him 60-4 in a secret session on the day of his nomination, but the roll call of the vote has never been made public.[2] Taft received his commission immediately and readily took up the position, serving until 1930.

George Sutherland nomination

On September 1, 1922, Justice John Hessin Clarke sent a letter to President Harding announcing his intention to resign from the Court. Harding was interested in showing his support for the growing American West, and was determined to pick a nominee from that region. Thus, on September 5, 1922, Harding nominated Utah Senator George Sutherland to the seat. That same day, Sutherland was confirmed by a voice vote among his colleagues in the United States Senate, and received his commission.[1]

Clarke, who had been dissatisfied with his experience as a Justice, informed Sutherland, that the latter was embarking on "a dog's life"[3]

Pierce Butler nomination

Justice William R. Day resigned from the Court on November 13, 1922. Eight days later, on November 21, 1922, Harding nominated Pierce Butler. Butler was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 21, 1922 by a vote of 61-8.[1]

Although he was supported by Chief Justice Taft, Butler's opposition to "radical" and "disloyal" professors at the University of Minnesota (where he had served on the Board of Regents) made him a controversial Supreme Court nominee. Senator-elect Henrik Shipstead of Butler's home state opposed him, as did Progressive Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin. Also against his confirmation were labor activists, some liberal newspapers (the New Republic and The Nation), and the Ku Klux Klan. However, with the support of prominent Roman Catholics, fellow lawyers (the Minnesota State Bar Association strongly endorsed him), and business groups (especially railroad companies), as well as Minnesota's other senator, Knute Nelson, he was confirmed by a wide margin of 61 to 8. The Senators who voted against him were five Democrats (Walter F. George, William J. Harris, J. Thomas Heflin, Morris Sheppard, and Park Trammell) and three Republicans (Robert M. La Follette Sr., Peter Norbeck, and George W. Norris). He took his seat on the Court on January 2, 1923.

Edward Terry Sanford nomination

Justice Mahlon Pitney retired from the Court on December 31, 1922, after suffering a stroke. On January 24, 1923, Harding nominated Edward Terry Sanford to replace Pitney. Sanford was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 29, 1923 by a voice vote.[1]

Names mentioned

Following is a list of individuals who were mentioned in various news accounts and books as having been considered by Harding for a Supreme Court appointment: –

United States Courts of Appeals

Courts of Appeals

United States District Courts

State Supreme Courts


Other backgrounds

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Supreme Court Nominations, 1789-present,
  2. ^ Report on Supreme Court nominees 1789-2005, Congressional Research Service, page 41.
  3. ^ Quoted in Joel Francis Paschal, Mr. Justice Sutherland: A Man Against the State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 114.
  4. ^ a b Kaufman, Andrew L. Cardozo. Harvard University Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-0-674-00192-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e Danelski, David J. A Supreme Court Justice Is Appointed. Greenwood Press (CT). ISBN 978-0-313-22652-6.
This page was last edited on 11 June 2019, at 01:41
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