Greatest U.S. Supreme Court Justices

A list of the 12 greatest United States Supreme Court Justices.


In 1971, law professors Albert Blaustein of Rutgers and Roy Mersky of Texas conducted a survey on Supreme Court justices, which Life magazine published. The justices were ranked according to degree of excellence, ranging from "great" down to "failure." Blaustein and Mersky polled 65 academic experts, including lawyers, law school deans, judges, and legal scholars. The 12 judges who were considered "great" are given in descending order, beginning with Marshall, the only unanimous choice on the list.

Term of Office

1. John Marshall (1755-1835) 1801-1835, chief justice

2. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) 1902-1932, associate justice

3. Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) 1916-1939, associate justice

4. Earl Warren (1891-1974) 1953-1969, chief justice

5. Hugo Black (1886-1971) 1937-1971, associate justice

6. Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) 1939-1962, associate justice

7. Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870-1938) 1932-1938, associate justice

8. Harlan F. Stone (1872-1946) 1925-1941, associate justice

1941-1946, chief justice

9. Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) 1910-1916, associate justice

1930-1941, chief justice

10. John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) 1877-1911, associate justice

11. Roger B. Taney (1777-1864) 1836-1864, chief justice

12. Joseph Story (1779-1845) 1811-1845, associate justice

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