Taft Court

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Supreme Court of the United States
Taft Court
William Howard Taft as Chief Justice SCOTUS.jpg
July 11, 1921 – February 3, 1930
(8 years, 207 days)
SeatOld Senate Chamber
Washington, D.C.
No. of positions9
Taft Court decisions
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg

The Taft Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1921 to 1930, when William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States. Taft succeeded Edward Douglass White as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and Taft served as Chief Justice until his resignation, at which point Charles Evans Hughes was nominated and confirmed as Taft's replacement. Taft was also the nation's 27th president (1909–13); he is the only person to serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice.

The Taft Court continued the Lochner era and largely reflected the conservatism of the 1920s.[1] The Taft Court is also notable for being the first court able to exert some control over its own docket, as the Judiciary Act of 1925 instituted the requirement that almost all cases receive a writ of certiorari from four justices before appearing before the Supreme Court.[2]


The Taft Court began in 1921 when President Warren Harding appointed former President William Howard Taft to replace Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, who Taft himself had made Chief Justice in 1910. The Taft Court began with Taft and eight members of the White Court: Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., William R. Day, Willis Van Devanter, Mahlon Pitney, James Clark McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, and John Hessin Clarke. In 1922 and 1923, Harding appointed George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Edward Terry Sanford to replace Day, Pitney, and Clarke. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Harlan F. Stone to replace the retiring McKenna.


Bar key:        McKinley appointee •        T. Roosevelt appointee •        Taft appointee •        Wilson appointee •        Harding appointee •        Coolidge appointee

Selected Rulings of the Court[edit]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

The Taft Court struck down numerous economic regulations in defense of a laissez faire economy, but largely avoided striking down laws that affected civil liberties.[5] The court struck down both federal and state regulations, with the latter often being struck down on basis of the dormant commerce clause.[6] The court also tended to take the side of businesses over unions, rarely intervened to protect minorities, and generally issued conservative rulings with regard to criminal procedure.[7] During the preceding White Court, progressives came close to taking control of the court, but Harding's appointments shored up the conservative wing.[5] Holmes and Brandeis (and Clarke, before his retirement) formed the progressive wing of the court and were more willing to uphold government regulations. McReynolds, Van Devanter, and the Harding appointees (Taft, Sutherland, Butler, and Sanford) made up the conservative bloc and frequently voted to strike down progressive legislation such as child labor laws.[5] Van Devanter, Taft, Sutherland, Butler, and Sanford formed a cohesive quintet that often voted together, while McReynolds was more likely than the others to dissent from the right.[8] McKenna was the lone centrist judge following the departures of Pitney and Day, though McKenna became more conservative as he neared retirement.[5] In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Attorney General Harlan F. Stone to replace McKenna, and Stone surprised many by aligning with Holmes and Brandeis.[9]


  1. ^ Renstrom, Peter (2003). The Taft Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ Galloway, Jr., Russell Wl (1 January 1985). "The Taft Court (1921-29)". Santa Clara Law Review. 25 (1): 21–22. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ Galloway, Jr., 12
  4. ^ Galloway, Jr., 19
  5. ^ a b c d Galloway, Jr., 1-4
  6. ^ Post, Robert (2002). "FEDERALISM IN THE TAFT COURT ERA: CAN IT BE "REVIVED"?". Duke Law Journal. 51 (5): 1606–1608. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Galloway, Jr., 47-48
  8. ^ Galloway, Jr., 12-13
  9. ^ Galloway, Jr., 16-17

Further reading[edit]

Works centering on the Taft Court[edit]

  • Burton, David Henry (1998). Taft, Holmes, and the 1920s Court: An Appraisal. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 9780838637685.
  • Renstrom, Peter G. (2003). The Taft Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576072806.

Works centering on Taft Court judges[edit]

  • Arkes, Hadley (1997). The Return of George Sutherland: Restoring a Jurisprudence of Natural Rights. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691016283.
  • Rosen, Jeffrey (2016). Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300158670.
  • Rosen, Jeffrey (2018). William Howard Taft. Times Books. ISBN 9781250293695.
  • Slater, Stephanie L. (2018). Edward Terry Sanford: A Tennessean on the US Supreme Court. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781621903697.
  • Urofsky, Melvin (2012). Louis D. Brandeis: A Life. Schocken Books. ISBN 9780805211955.
  • White, G. Edward (1995). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198024330.

Other relevant works[edit]

  • Abraham, Henry Julian (2008). Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742558953.
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1-56802-126-7.
  • Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L., eds. (1995). The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0-7910-1377-4.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W.; Grossman, Joel B., eds. (2005). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195176612.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W., eds. (2009). The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195379396.
  • Hall, Timothy L. (2001). Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438108179.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles; Hoffer, WilliamJames Hull; Hull, N. E. H. (2018). The Supreme Court: An Essential History (2nd ed.). University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-2681-6.
  • Howard, John R. (1999). The Shifting Wind: The Supreme Court and Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780791440896.
  • Irons, Peter (2006). A People's History of the Supreme Court: The Men and Women Whose Cases and Decisions Have Shaped Our Constitution (Revised ed.). Penguin. ISBN 9781101503133.
  • Lendler, Marc (2012). Gitlow v. New York: Every Idea an Incitement. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1875-0.
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
  • Schwarz, Bernard (1995). A History of the Supreme Court. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195093872.
  • Tomlins, Christopher, ed. (2005). The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618329694.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1.