Warren G. Harding Supreme Court candidates

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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.

William Howard Taft nomination[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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. LaFollette, 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. LaFollette, Sr. Peter Norbeck, and George W. Norris). He took his seat on the Court on January 2, 1923.

Edward Terry Sanford nomination[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Courts of Appeals

United States District Courts[edit]

State Supreme Courts[edit]


Other backgrounds[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Supreme Court Nominations, 1789-present, senate.gov.
  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.