"The Greatest Justices" List

Patrick Wiseman pwiseman at GSU.EDU
Fri Mar 9 09:36:26 PST 2001

On Thu, 8 Mar 2001, Todd Zywicki wrote:

:Does this disqualify Holmes for Buck v. Bell?
:> Judith Baer wrote:
:> In my opinion, Rehnquist no more belongs on the list of great justice
:> than Reagan belongs on the list of great presidents, and for the same
:> reason: unacceptable ideology.

I'm not sure that unacceptable ideology should be a criterion of
"greatness," but surely some measure of intellectual integrity should
count.  Although it may also be something of an eye-of-the-beholder
criterion, I should think it would be enough to exclude Holmes from the
list, not only, or even principally, for _Buck v. Bell_ (which,
incidentally, the Court, per Rehnquist, C.J., cites with apparent approval
in _Garrett_), but for _Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon_, in which he
disingenously narrows the case to that of "a single private house."  (Am I
alone in thinking that Holmes is the most overrated justice ever to have
served on the Court?)

As for assessing the greatness of present and very recent members of the
Court, while I agree with those who suggest that it's too early to judge,
I would have to say that a requirement of intellectual integrity would put
the greatness of Justices Rehnquist and Scalia in doubt, and would require
that we give Justice Souter serious consideration.

Obviously, this _is_ an eye-of-the-beholder matter!


Patrick Wiseman
Professor of Law
GSU College of Law

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