5 Supreme Court Justices Who Were Supreme A-Holes

Utterly unbiased by their personal opinions, of course
5 Supreme Court Justices Who Were Supreme A-Holes

In an ideal world, even with all the partisan bickering loudly emanating from the legislative and executive branches, the Supreme Court should be full of thoughtful, unbiased scholars. Men and women who, if they hadnt pursued the law, would be located on some mountaintop dispensing pearls of indisputable wisdom to those taking the time to climb up. 

Of course, that all falls apart when you remember that they are also people, and people are often awful. And so, the chances of even a country as young as the United States batting a thousand on choosing arbiters of justice that dont have horrific skeletons in the closet is next to zero.

To that end, here are five particularly unpleasant Supreme Court justices from history…

Hugo Black

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Im not some huffing toddler who doesnt understand why every Supreme Court justice doesnt agree with me. I understand that its the nature of the beast that theres going to be differing political opinions on the court, including some that I personally consider harmful to human health. I dont expect every justice to have a sterling progressive record, especially when Im thumbing back through history. I do, however, feel like its a fair line to draw that Supreme Court justices shouldnt have been members of the Ku Klux Klan. A simple test that Justice Hugo Black doesn't pass

Lest you think this is the complaint of a modern snowflake looking back, know that even FDR, the president who nominated him, had to issue a mea culpa saying he hadnt known. Did he vote fairly liberally once appointed? Yes, but so did other justices who WERENT ex-KKK members.

James Clark McReynolds

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Another good old fashioned bigot who found himself astride the highest bench in the land was James Clark McReynolds. Now, its one thing to be an old-timey racist, but its another when youre so racist that it starts interfering with the operation of the courts daily duties. 

McReynolds was broadly a piece of shit to plenty of types of people, but it was his anti-Semitism that really shone through. When Louis Brandeis was appointed to the Supreme Court, McReynolds refused to speak to him for THREE YEARS because he was Jewish. He was also known for standing up and leaving the courtroom or turning his back whenever a case was being argued by a Black or female lawyer

Seems like good grounds for getting somebody off the court, but back then, I guess people just called him “a real grump” and chuckled.

William Rehnquist

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Arguing in favor of segregation isnt something thats going to get you a plum place in the history books, and thats the side Rehnquist chose. By all accounts, it wasnt a particularly surprising stance for him to take based on his own personal thoughts on minorities. Rehnquist wasnt actually a justice at the time, but a law clerk writing a memorandum. That memorandum, understandably, came up during the review process to make him a justice, and he may or may not have committed a bit of perjury about what inspired him to write it

After his appointment, he remained a pretty unsavory piece of work, known for things like complaining about what a waste of time appeals from death-row inmates were.

Clarence Thomas

Public Domain

Even before the current hubbub around allegations of inappropriate gifts, Clarence Thomas wasnt a widely loved member of the Supreme Court. No matter what your political position, but especially when its one that relies above all on impartiality, you dont want to be the subject of published lists of scandals. Similarly, you dont want to see your face under headlines containing the words “worst Supreme Court justice ever.” 

As a staunch anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-abortion, pro-gun far right conservative with swarming questions of corruption, it feels like Thomas legacy is more than likely going to be a frown-inducing blurb in the futures history books.

Samuel Chase

Public Domain

If were going to talk about bad Supreme Court justices, we have to mention the only one to ever officially have impeachment proceedings brought against him. Were going all the way back to Samuel Chase at the turn of the 19th century. Chase was impeached for a simple reason, one that was made more difficult by the fact that he was widely considered an asshole. That reason was extreme partisanship to the point where it was interfering with the court and tanking cases in progress. 

Today, even judges that are heavily partisan know enough to pretend to rub their chin thoughtfully for a while so its not obvious.

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