Supreme Court of the United States
Skip Navigation LinksHome | Frequently Asked Questions - Justices

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)



Supreme Court Justices

How many Justices have there been?
As of August 2010, there have been 112 Justices.

What is the average length of a Justice’s tenure?
The average number of years that Justices have served is 16.

Who was the longest serving Chief Justice?
The longest serving Chief Justice was Chief Justice John Marshall who served for 34 years, 5 months and 11 days from 1801 to 1835.

Which Chief Justice served the shortest Term?
The shortest serving Chief Justice was John Rutledge who was appointed under a temporary commission because the Senate was in recess. He served for 5 months and 14 days before the Senate reconvened and rejected his nomination.

Who was the longest serving Associate Justice?
The longest serving Justice was William O. Douglas who served for 36 years, 7 months, and 8 days from 1939 to 1975.

(top)

Which Associate Justice served the shortest Term?
John Rutledge served the shortest tenure as an Associate Justice at one year and 18 days, from 1790 to 1791. The next shortest tenure was that of James F. Byrnes who served 1 year, 2 months, and 25 days from 1941 to 1942. For many years, Justice Thomas Johnson was thought to have been the shortest serving Justice but under a temporary recess appointment he served a total of 1 year, 3 months and 28 days.

Who was the youngest Chief Justice appointed?
John Jay (1789-1795) was 44 years old when he took his oath of office.

Who was the oldest Chief Justice appointed?
Harlan F. Stone (1941-1946) was 68 years old when he took his oath of office.

Who was the youngest Associate Justice appointed?
Joseph Story (1811-1845) was 32 years old when he took his oath of office.

Who was the oldest Associate Justice appointed?
Horace Lurton (1910-1914) was 65 years old when he took his oath of office.

Who was the oldest person to serve on the Supreme Court?
The oldest person to serve as a Supreme Court Justice was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., (1902-1932) who was 90 when he retired from the Court.

Have any Justices been born in another country?
Six Justices were born outside the United States. They are:

  • James Wilson (1789-1798) born in Caskardy, Scotland
  • James Iredell (1790-1799) born in Lewes, England
  • William Paterson (1793-1806) born in County Antrim, Ireland
  • David J. Brewer (1889-1910) born in Smyrna, Turkey
  • George Sutherland (1922-1939) born in Buckinghamshire, England
  • Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962) born in Vienna, Austria

 

 Has anyone ever served as both President and Chief Justice?

William Howard Taft is the only person to have served as both President of the United States (1909-1913) and Chief Justice of the United States (1921-1930).

Who was the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice?
Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1916-1939).

Who was the first African American Supreme Court Justice?
Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991).

(top)

Who was the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice?
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor (2009-Present).

(top)

Who was the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice?
Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006).

Have any Supreme Court Justices had the same name?
Two Associate Justices were named John Marshall Harlan. The first served from 1877 to 1911. The second, his grandson, served from 1955 to 1971.

Have any Supreme Court Justices served as law clerks?
Six Justices served as law clerks. They are:

  • Byron R. White (1962-1993) clerked for Chief Justice Fred Vinson, 1946-47.
  • William H. Rehnquist (AJ 1972-1986, CJ 1986-2005) clerked for Justice Robert H. Jackson, 1952-53.
  • John Paul Stevens (1975 to 2010) clerked for Justice Wiley B. Rutledge, 1947-48.
  • Stephen G. Breyer (1994 to Present) clerked for Justice Arthur Goldberg, 1964-65.
  • John G. Roberts, Jr. (2005 to Present) clerked for Justice William H. Rehnquist, 1980-81.
  • Elena Kagan (2010 to Present) clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1987-88.

 

 What law schools did the present Justices graduate from?

  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - Harvard (J.D.)
  • Justice Antonin Scalia - Harvard (L.L.B)
  • Justice Anthony M. Kennedy - Harvard (L.L.B)
  • Justice Clarence Thomas - Yale (J.D.)
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Columbia (L.L.B)
  • Justice Stephen G. Breyer - Harvard (L.L.B)
  • Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. - Yale (J.D.)
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor - Yale (J.D.)
  • Justice Elena Kagan - Harvard (J.D.)

 

 Why do Justices wear black robes?

Judicial robes have long been thought to bring dignity and solemnity to judicial proceedings. Following the custom of English judges, some American colonial judges adopted the wearing of robes along with many other customs and principles of the English common law system. When the Supreme Court first met in 1790, the Justices had not settled on whether to wear robes, but in February 1792 they did appear in a standard set of robes for the first time, which one reporter referred to as �robes of justice.� These robes are thought to have been black, trimmed with red and white on the front and sleeves. They were only used for a few years before the Justices adopted all black robes.

(top)

October 24, 2014 | Version 2014.1