Note to media: At least 38 of 111 Supreme Court justices had no prior judicial experience

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Media figures have advanced the myth that judicial experience is a pre-requisite for a Supreme Court justice. In fact, two of the last four previous chief justices -- William Rehnquist and Earl Warren -- had no judicial experience when first nominated to the Court by Republican presidents. Neither did other famous justices, including Felix Frankfurter, Louis Brandeis, and John Marshall, known as the "Great Chief Justice."

Rehnquist, Warren, Frankfurter, Brandeis, and Marshall are far from alone. Indeed, according to Findlaw.com's Supreme Court Center, 40 of the 111 Supreme Court justices had no judicial experience when they were first nominated.

UPDATE: According to Henry J. Abraham's* book, Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II, there were 38 justices with no prior judicial experience.

The list from Findlaw.com:

Name of Justice

Prior Occupations

Years On Court

Appointed By President:

1. William Rehnquist

Asst. U.S. Attorney General

1972-2005

Nixon (Assoc., 1972),
Reagan (Chief, 1986)

2. Lewis Powell

President of the American Bar Ass'n,
Private Practice

1972-1987

Nixon

3. Abe Fortas

Private Practice

1965-1969

Johnson

4. Byron White

Deputy U.S. Attorney General

1962-1993

Kennedy

5. Arthur Goldberg

U.S. Secretary of Labor

1962-1965

Kennedy

6. Earl Warren

Governor of California

1953-1969

Eisenhower

7. Tom Clark

U.S. Attorney General

1949-1967

Truman

8. Harold Burton

U.S. Senator

1945-1958

Truman

9. Robert Jackson

U.S. Attorney General

1941-1954

F. Roosevelt

10. James Francis Byrnes

U.S. Senator

1941-1942

F. Roosevelt

11. William O. Douglas

Chairman of the S.E.C.

1939-1975

F. Roosevelt

12. Felix Frankfurter

Asst. U.S. Attorney, Asst. Secretary of War, Prof. of Law at Harvard

1939-1962

F. Roosevelt

13. Stanley Forman Reed

U.S. Solicitor General

1938-1957

F. Roosevelt

14. Owen Josephus Roberts

Special Counsel in "Teapot Dome"
investigation and trials

1930-1945

Hoover

15. Harlan Fiske Stone

U.S. Attorney General

1925-1946

Coolidge (Assoc., 1925),
F. Roosevelt (Chief, 1941)

16. Pierce Butler

County Attorney, Private Practice

1923-1939

Harding

17. George Sutherland

U.S. Senator

1922-1938

Harding

18. Louis Brandeis

Private Practice

1916-1939

Wilson

19. James Clark McReynolds

U.S. Attorney General

1914-1941

Wilson

20. Charles Evans Hughes

Governor of New York,
U.S. Secretary of State

1910-1916,
1930-1941

Taft (Assoc., 1910),
Hoover (Chief, 1930)

21. William Henry Moody

U.S. Attorney General

1906-1910

T. Roosevelt

22. George Shiras, Jr

Private Practice

1892-1903

Harrison

23. Melville Fuller

Private Practice

1888-1910

Cleveland

24. Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Senator

1888-1893

Cleveland

25. Joseph Philo Bradley

Private Practice

1870-1892

Grant

26. Salmon P. Chase

U.S. Treasury Secretary

1864-1873

Lincoln

27. Samuel Freeman Miller

Private Practice

1862-1890

Lincoln

28. Noah Haynes Swayne

U.S. Attorney for Ohio, Ohio Legislator

1862-1881

Lincoln

29. Nathan Clifford

Maine & U.S. Attorney General

1858-1881

Buchanan

30. John Archibald Campbell

Alabama Legislator

1853-1861

Pierce

31. Benjamin Robbins Curtis

Massachusetts Legislator

1851-1857

Fillmore

32. John McKinley

U.S. Senator

1838-1852

Van Buren

33. Roger Brooke Taney

Maryland & U.S. Attorney General,
U.S. Treasury Secretary

1836-1864

Jackson

34. Henry Baldwin

U.S. Congressman

1830-1844

Jackson

35. Joseph Story

Speaker of Mass. House of Reps.,
U.S. Congressman

1812-1845

Madison

36. John Marshall

U.S. Secretary of State

1801-1835

Adams

37. Bushrod Washington

Virginia House of Delegates,
Reporter for Virginia Court of Appeals

1799-1829

Adams

38. William Paterson

Governor of New Jersey

1793-1806

Washington

39. John Jay

President of the Continental Congress,
U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs

1789-1795

Washington

40. John Rutledge

Governor of South Carolina

1789-1791, 1795

Washington

* Name corrected

** Headline updated

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Elena Kagan
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