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List of Jewish United States Supreme Court justices

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Title: List of Jewish United States Supreme Court justices  
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Subject: Lists of Jews, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Abe Fortas, Irving Kaufman, List of American Jews, American Jews, Elena Kagan
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

List of Jewish United States Supreme Court justices

Louis Brandeis became the first Jewish justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1916, following nomination by President Woodrow Wilson, and a contentious confirmation. Towards the end of his tenure on the Supreme Court, Brandeis was joined by the nation's second Jewish justice, Benjamin Cardozo in 1932, who was succeeded by Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas. Eight Jewish justices have served on the Court, including the three currently serving, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.


In 1916, Louis Brandeis became the first Jewish nominee to the Supreme Court, and after a tumultuous hearing process, he was confirmed later that same year.[1] The 1932 appointment of Benjamin Cardozo raised mild controversy for placing two Jewish justices on the Court at the same time, although the appointment was widely lauded based on Cardozo's qualifications, and the Senate was unanimous in confirming Cardozo.[2] Brandeis was succeeded by Protestant William O. Douglas, but Cardozo was succeeded by three consecutive Jewish justices, the first being Felix Frankfurter. Frankfurter was followed by Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas, each of whom filled what became known as the "Jewish Seat".[3] After Fortas resigned in 1969, he was replaced by Protestant Harry Blackmun.

No Jews were nominated thereafter until President Ronald Reagan nominated Douglas H. Ginsburg in 1987 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Lewis F. Powell; however, this nomination was withdrawn, and the Court remained without any Jewish justices until 1993, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg (unrelated to Douglas Ginsburg) was appointed to replace Justice Byron White. Ginsburg was followed in relatively quick succession by the appointment of Stephen Breyer in 1994 to replace Justice Harry Blackmun. Following the confirmation of Ginsburg and Breyer, the Supreme Court Historical Society published The Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court Revisited: Brandeis to Fortas in 1994, with forewords by both currently serving Jewish justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.[4]

On May 10, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the vacancy being left by the resignation of Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan was confirmed by the Senate on August 5, 2010 by a vote of 63–37,[5] and was sworn in as the 112th justice of the Supreme Court on August 7, 2010 by Chief Justice John Roberts.[6]


Negative reaction to the appointment of the early Jewish justices did not come exclusively from outside the Court. Justice James Clark McReynolds refused to speak to Brandeis for three years following the latter's appointment and, when Brandeis retired in 1939, did not sign the customary dedicatory letter sent to Court members on their retirement. During Benjamin Cardozo's swearing in ceremony, McReynolds pointedly read a newspaper muttering "another one" and did not attend that of Felix Frankfurter, exclaiming "My God, another Jew on the Court!"[7]

After the nomination of Elena Kagan in 2010 to be the third sitting Jewish justice, conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan stated that, "If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats."[8]



  † Chief justice 
  Currently serving justice 

# Judge State Born/Died Active service Chief Justice Retirement Appointed by Reason for
Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States
1 Brandeis, LouisLouis Brandeis MA 1856–1941 1916–1939
(Template:Age in years years)
(Template:Age in years years)
Wilson Retirement[9]
2 Cardozo, BenjaminBenjamin N. Cardozo NY 1870–1938 1932–1938
(Template:Age in years years)
Hoover Death[10]
3 Frankfurter, FelixFelix Frankfurter MA 1882–1965 1939–1962
(Template:Age in years years)
(Template:Age in years years)
Roosevelt, F. Retirement[9]
4 Goldberg, ArthurArthur Goldberg IL 1908–1990 1962–1965
(Template:Age in years years)
Kennedy Resignation[11]
5 Fortas, AbeAbe Fortas TN 1910–1982 1965–1969
(Template:Age in years years)
Johnson, L. Resignation[12]
6 Ginsburg, RuthRuth Bader Ginsburg NY 1933– 1993–present
(Template:Age in years years)
Clinton Currently serving
7 Breyer, StephenStephen Breyer MA 1938– 1994–present
(Template:Age in years years)
Clinton Currently serving
8 Kagan, ElenaElena Kagan NY 1960– 2010–present
(Template:Age in years years)
Obama Currently serving


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DateFormat = dd/mm/yyyy Period = from:01/01/1910 till:01/01/2020 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:01/01/1910

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 width:4 align:left fontsize:S shift:(5,-4) anchor:till
from: 06/05/1916 till: 13/02/1939  color:justice text:"Louis Brandeis"                fontsize:10            
from: 24/02/1932 till: 09/07/1938  color:justice text:"Benjamin N. Cardozo"           fontsize:10   
from: 30/01/1939 till: 28/08/1962  color:justice text:"Felix Frankfurter"             fontsize:10            
from: 01/10/1962 till: 25/07/1965  color:justice text:"Arthur Goldberg"               fontsize:10            
from: 04/10/1965 till: 14/05/1969  color:justice text:"Abe Fortas"                    fontsize:10            
from: 10/08/1993 till: 07/01/2014  color:justice text:"Ruth Bader Ginsburg"           fontsize:10           
from: 03/08/1994 till: 07/01/2014  color:justice text:"Stephen Breyer"                fontsize:10    
from: 07/08/2010 till: 07/01/2014  color:justice text:"Elena Kagan"                   fontsize:10          


See also


External links

  • Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved May 1, 2007.
  • Supreme Court of the United States, August 22, 2004. Retrieved May 2, 2007.
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