"There were precious few who understood and followed the commands and restraints of the Constitution, who supported the essence of limited government, who enhanced the concept of popular government under law, who furthered respect for the Bill of Rights as fully as Stone did." -- Henry J. Abraham
Harlan Fiske Stone (1872–1946)
LLD 1925 (hon.)
A Supreme Court Justice for 20 years, Harlan F. Stone was a New Dealer who defended civil liberties and individual rights against a conservative court majority. A core tenet of his legal philosophy was that the law could adapt to changing societal conditions. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him attorney general in 1924 and to the Supreme Court a year later. When the composition of the court began to change after 1937, Stone saw many of his dissenting opinions become majority decisions. In one otherwise obscure case, United States v. Carolene Products Co. (1938), Stone wrote what a later associate justice, Lewis Powell, called "the most celebrated footnote in constitutional law." In it, Stone outlined the circumstances under which the judiciary could interpret the Constitution to displace decisions made by democratic means. The footnote stands as the point of demarcation in the Supreme Court's shift over the next generation toward greater protection of civil rights and liberties. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt elevated the 69-year-old Stone to chief justice. He died after only four years, nine months, and 19 days in the top spot, making his tenure the second shortest of any chief justice.