The Four Horsemen

84px-Jamescmcreynolds94px-Senatorsutherland120px-Willis_Van_Devanter_-_seated96px-Justice_Pierce_Butler_2I’ve decided that I’m going to try and expand by research on Justice Sutherland into a collective biography of the Four Horsemen (Van Devanter, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Butler).  It’s surprising that nobody has ever done this before, so from time to time you’ll see posts about each of them.

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4 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    A reminder that Judge Learned Hand referred to them as the “four mastiffs” and as “the Battalion of Death.”

    And here’s some excerpts from Prof. Thomas Reed Powell’s 1955 James S. Carpentier Lectures at Columbia published under the title “Vagaries and Varieties in Constitutional Interpretation” from Part II “Professions and Practices in Judicial Review” @ p. 47:

    “Nor would I discount the influence of Justices Van Devanter, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Butler, if I may speak as the billiard player who occasionally employs reverse English. It may seem strange to speak of the cooperation between these four colleagues and the succession of able graduates of the Columbia Law School who were devoted law clerks to the Justice who became Chief Justice.” (The reference seems to be Stone.)

    In continuing his comments on the composition of the Court, at page 48, Powell said: ” I can, however, hardly refrain from noting that it makes a difference. Had Stone, Brandeis, Cardozo, Holmes, Hughes and the Ohio Mr. Justice Clarke been on the bench together, we could hardly have had the crisis of 1937.”

  2. Joe says:

    Sounds like a big task — four in one.

    Being the sole dissenter in Buck v. Bell alone suggests there are possible interesting aspects to their story. McReynolds (negatively) and Sutherland (as someone with some progressive tendencies) get most of the attention. Butler and Van Devanter (perhaps best known as having problems writing) get a lot less attention.

    Good luck.

  3. Joe says:

    Two cases that suggest the complexity of Sutherland might be (as a whole) the Scottsboro Cases and Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. Note he wrote the latter, while the other three “horsemen” dissented.

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    Let’s see how good Gerard is as a handicapper – or as a rehabilitator.