White Court (judges)

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Supreme Court of the United States
White Court
Edward White, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left, 1905.jpg
December 18, 1910 – May 19, 1921
(10 years, 152 days)
SeatOld Senate Chamber
Washington, D.C.
No. of positions9
White Court decisions
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg

The White Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1910 to 1921, when Edward Douglass White served as Chief Justice of the United States. White, an associate justice since 1894, succeeded Melville Fuller as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and White served as Chief Justice until his death a decade later. He was the first sitting associate justice to be elevated to chief justice in the Court's history. He was succeeded by former president William Howard Taft.

The White Court was less conservative than the preceding Fuller Court, though conservatism remained a powerful force on the bench (and would remain so through the mid-1930s).[1] The most notable legacy of White's chief-justiceship was the development of the rule of reason doctrine, used to interpret the Sherman Antitrust Act, and foundational to United States antitrust law. During this era the Court also established that the Fourteenth Amendment protected the "liberty of contract." On the grounds of the Fourteenth Amendment and other provisions of the Constitution, it controversially overturned many state and federal laws designed to protect employees.


The White Court began in December 1910 when President William Howard Taft appointed White to succeed Melville Fuller as Chief Justice. White was the first Associate Justice to ascend to the position of Chief Justice.[2] Earlier in 1910, Taft had appointed Horace Harmon Lurton and Charles Evans Hughes to the Supreme Court. In 1911, Taft appointed Willis Van Devanter and Joseph Rucker Lamar to the court, filling vacancies that had arisen in 1910. The White Court thus began with the five Taft appointees and four veterans of the Fuller Court: John Marshall Harlan, Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and William R. Day. Harlan retired in 1911, and Taft appointed Mahlon Pitney to replace him. Lurton died in 1914, and President Woodrow Wilson appointed James Clark McReynolds to replace him.

In 1916, Lamar died and Hughes resigned to accept the Republican nomination for president. Wilson appointed Louis Brandeis and John Hessin Clarke to replace them. The White Court ended with White's death in 1921; President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft as White's successor.


President key:        Hayes appointee •        McKinley appointee •        T. Roosevelt appointee •        Taft appointee •        Wilson appointee

Rulings of the Court[edit]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Though the White Court continued to strike down some economic regulations and make conservative rulings, it was more open to such regulations than the other courts that preceded the New Deal.[1][3] The White Court issued several favorable rulings towards an expanded interpretation of the Commerce Clause and taxing powers, although Hammer stands as a notable exception.[3] The White Court also issued notable rulings in the wake of World War I, and the court generally ruled in favor of the government.[4] After the 1916 appointments, the court had three ideological wings: Holmes, Brandeis, and Clarke were the progressives, McKenna, White, Pitney, and Day were centrists, and McReynolds and Van Devanter were conservative.[1] Prior to his resignation, Hughes was often considered a progressive, while Lurton and Lamar did not serve long enough to develop strong ideological leanings.[5] Regardless of the ideological blocs, consensual norms and the high load of relatively mundane cases faced by the Supreme Court prior to the Judiciary Act of 1925 meant that many cases were decided unanimously.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Galloway, Jr., Russell Wl (1 January 1985). "The Taft Court (1921-29)". Santa Clara Law Review. 25 (1): 1–2. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ Currie, David P. (1985). "THE CONSTITUTION IN THE SUPREME COURT: 1910-1921". Duke Law Journal. 34 (6): 1111. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Shoemaker, Rebecca (2004). The White Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 32–33. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  4. ^ White, 147
  5. ^ Wood, Sandra L. (Summer 1998). "The Supreme Court, 1888-1940: An Empirical Overview" (PDF). Social Science History. 22 (2): 206–207. doi:10.1017/s0145553200023269. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  6. ^ Wood, 204, 211-212

Further reading[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.
  • Highsaw, Robert B. (1999). Edward Douglass White: Defender of the Conservative Faith. LSU Press. ISBN 9780807124284.
  • 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.
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
  • Pratt, Walter F. (1999). The Supreme Court Under Edward Douglass White, 1910-1921. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781570033094.
  • Schwarz, Bernard (1995). A History of the Supreme Court. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195093872.
  • Shoemaker, Rebecca S. (2004). The White Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576079737.
  • 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.
  • White, G. Edward (1995). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198024330.