Justice Byron White

Justice Byron White joined the U.S. Supreme Court on April 16, 1962, replacing Justice Charles Evans Whittaker. White was born on June 8, 1917 in northern Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado and graduated in 1938 as the class valedictorian. White then received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. As the Second World War started in Europe, though, he returned to the United States and attended Yale Law School. However, the war interrupted his legal education. White served in the U.S. Navy during the war, receiving two Bronze Stars. He then returned to Yale and graduated magna cum laude in 1946.

Nicknamed "Whizzer," White was also a star running back for the University of Colorado Buffaloes. He was drafted in the first round of the 1938 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Pittsburgh Steelers) after finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in the previous year. White led the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie with the Pirates and again in 1940 with the Detroit Lions. He stopped playing football after the 1941 season, choosing to focus on law.

White began his legal career with a prestigious clerkship for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson. He then practiced law in Colorado and eventually assisted with the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy won the Presidency, White became U.S. Deputy Attorney General, although he would stay in that position for barely a year.

On April 3, 1962, President Kennedy nominated White to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on April 11, and he took the judicial oath five days later. White would stay on the Court for over 30 years, writing nearly 1,000 opinions. He witnessed the rightward shift of the Court from the activist era of Earl Warren to the moderate era of Warren Burger to the conservative era of William Rehnquist.

Although he was appointed by a Democrat President, White voiced conservative views in some key cases. For example, he dissented in 1966 when the Supreme Court created the Miranda warnings for criminal suspects under the Fifth Amendment, and he wrote the majority opinion in U.S. v. Leon, which limited Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures. He was one of only two Justices who dissented in Roe v. Wade, which temporarily created a constitutional right to abortion. White penned perhaps his most memorable opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 decision that blocked the progress of LGBTQ+ rights until the Court overturned it 17 years later.

However, White supported school desegregation, and he endorsed affirmative action in the landmark 1978 case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. He also joined the Court’s firm stance against sex discrimination in Frontiero v. Richardson in 1973. His position on the death penalty was ambivalent. White felt that it was constitutional to impose the death penalty on a 15-year-old murderer, but he wrote the majority opinion in Coker v. Georgia, which ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed for rape.

Shortly before leaving the Court, White administered the oath of office to Vice President Al Gore on January 20, 1993. He retired on June 28, 1993 and was replaced by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. White died on April 15, 2002 in Denver, Colorado.

Selected Opinions by Justice White:

Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The police may seize non-threatening contraband detected through the sense of touch during a protective patdown search of the sort permitted by Terry, so long as the search stays within the bounds marked by Terry.

Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc. (1992)

Topic: Trademarks

Trade dress that is inherently distinctive is protectable without a showing that it has acquired secondary meaning.

Connecticut v. Doehr (1991)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

Deciding what process must be afforded by a law enabling a private party to enlist the state's aid in depriving another party of their property through a prejudgment attachment or a similar procedure involves three issues: consideration of the private interest that will be affected by the prejudgment measure; an examination of the risk of erroneous deprivation through the procedures under attack and the probable value of additional or alternative safeguards; and principal attention to the interest of the party seeking the prejudgment remedy, with due regard for any ancillary interest of the government in providing the procedure or forgoing the added burden of providing greater protections.

Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp. (1991)

Topic: Labor & Employment

An ADEA claim can be subjected to compulsory arbitration.

Cheek v. U.S. (1991)

Topic: Taxes

Statutory willfulness, which protects the average citizen from prosecution for innocent mistakes due to the complexity of the tax laws, is the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty. A good-faith misunderstanding of the law or a good-faith belief that one is not violating the law negates willfulness, whether or not the claimed belief or misunderstanding is objectively reasonable.

Walton v. Arizona (1990)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The Constitution does not require that every finding of fact underlying a sentencing decision be made by a jury rather than a judge.

Alabama v. White (1990)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Factors for determining whether an informant's tip establishes probable cause are also relevant in the Terry reasonable suspicion context, although allowance must be made in applying them for the lesser showing required to meet that standard.

New York v. Harris (1990)

Topic: Search & Seizure

When the police have probable cause to arrest a suspect, the exclusionary rule does not bar the use of a statement made by the defendant outside their home, even if the statement is taken after an arrest made in the home in violation of Payton.

Maryland v. Buie (1990)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment permits a properly limited protective sweep in conjunction with an in-home arrest when the searching officer has a reasonable belief based on specific and articulable facts that the area to be swept harbors a person posing a danger to those on the arrest scene.

Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio (1989)

Topic: Labor & Employment

The proper comparison in a disparate impact employment discrimination case is generally between the racial composition of the at-issue jobs and the racial composition of the qualified population in the relevant labor market.

Florida v. Riley (1989)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment does not require the police traveling in the public airways at an altitude of 400 feet to obtain a warrant to observe what is visible to the naked eye.

Patterson v. Illinois (1988)

Topic: Miranda Rights

An accused who is admonished with the Miranda warnings has been sufficiently apprised of the nature of their Sixth Amendment rights and the consequences of abandoning those rights so that their waiver on this basis will be considered knowing and intelligent.

California v. Greenwood (1988)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)

Topic: Free Speech

Educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities, so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.

Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)

Topic: LGBTQ+ Rights

The Constitution does not confer a fundamental right on homosexuals to engage in sodomy. Any claim that prior Supreme Court cases involving family relationships, marriage, or procreation stand for the proposition that any kind of private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state proscription is unsupportable.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. (1986)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

The inquiry involved in a ruling on a motion for summary judgment or for a directed verdict necessarily implicates the substantive evidentiary standard of proof that would apply at the trial on the merits.

FTC v. Indiana Federation of Dentists (1986)

Topic: Antitrust

Without a countervailing pro-competitive virtue, a horizontal agreement among members of a professional organization to withhold from their customers a particular service that they desire cannot be sustained under the rule of reason.

U.S. v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc. (1985)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The Clean Water Act and regulations promulgated under its authority by the Army Corps of Engineers authorize the Corps to require property owners to obtain permits from the Corps before discharging fill material into wetlands adjacent to navigable bodies of water and their tributaries.

City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc. (1985)

Topic: Equal Protection

Requiring a special use permit for a proposed group home for mentally retarded people violated equal protection. Although the mentally retarded, as a group, are different from those who occupy other facilities that are permitted in the zoning area in question without a special permit, such difference is irrelevant unless the proposed group home would threaten the city's legitimate interests in a way that the permitted uses would not.

Tennessee v. Garner (1985)

Topic: Search & Seizure

A police officer may not seize an unarmed, non-dangerous suspect by shooting them dead. However, when an officer has probable cause to believe that a suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force.

Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill (1985)

Topic: Due Process

While the legislature may elect not to confer a property interest in public employment, it may not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an interest, once conferred, without appropriate procedural safeguards.

New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches conducted by public school officials, but the more lenient standard of reasonable suspicion applies.

U.S. v. Leon (1984)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule should not be applied to bar the use in the prosecution's case in chief of evidence obtained by officers acting in reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate but ultimately found to be invalid.

Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias (1984)

Topic: Powers of Congress

In the process of competition, no state may discriminatorily tax products manufactured in any other state, even if the burden of the tax is borne by in-state consumers.

South-Central Timber Development, Inc. v. Wunnicke (1984)

Topic: Powers of Congress

For a state regulation to be removed from the reach of the dormant Commerce Clause as being authorized by Congress, congressional intent must be unmistakably clear.

Pulley v. Harris (1984)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The Eighth Amendment does not require that a state appellate court, before it affirms a death sentence, compare the sentence in the case before it with the penalties imposed in similar cases if requested to do so by the defendant.

Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp. (1984)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The federal preemption of state regulation of the safety aspects of nuclear energy does not extend to a state-authorized award of punitive damages for conduct related to radiation hazards.

Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. (1983)

Topic: Government Agencies

An agency rule would be arbitrary and capricious if the agency has relied on factors that Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.

Connick v. Myers (1983)

Topic: Labor & Employment; Free Speech

When a public employee speaks as an employee on matters only of personal interest, a federal court is generally not the appropriate forum to review the wisdom of a personnel decision taken by a public agency allegedly in reaction to the employee's behavior.

New York v. Ferber (1982)

Topic: Free Speech

States are entitled to greater leeway in the regulation of pornographic depictions of children. The standard of Miller v. California for determining what is legally obscene is not a satisfactory solution to the child pornography problem.

Insurance Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites (1982)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

Since the requirement that a court have personal jurisdiction protects an individual interest, it may be intentionally waived, or a defendant may be estopped from raising the issue for various reasons.

Edwards v. Arizona (1981)

Topic: Miranda Rights

When an accused has invoked their right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that they responded to police-initiated interrogation after again being advised of their rights. When an accused has expressed their desire to deal with the police only through counsel, they are not subject to further interrogation until counsel has been made available to them, unless they have initiated further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.

EPA v. National Crushed Stone Ass'n (1980)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act does not require the EPA to consider economic capability in granting variances from its uniform BPT (best practicable control technology currently available) regulations.

World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson (1980)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

The foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis for personal jurisdiction is that the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum are such that they should reasonably anticipate being brought into court there.

Vance v. Terrazas (1980)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

In establishing loss of citizenship, the government must prove an intent to surrender U.S. citizenship, rather than just the voluntary commission of an expatriating act, such as swearing allegiance to a foreign nation.

Broadcast Music, Inc. v. CBS, Inc. (1979)

Topic: Antitrust

The issuance of blanket licenses by performance rights organizations does not constitute price fixing that is per se unlawful under the antitrust laws.

Zurcher v. Stanford Daily (1978)

Topic: Search & Seizure

When the state does not seek to seize persons but instead seeks to seize things, there is no apparent basis in the language of the Fourth Amendment for also imposing the requirements for a valid arrest: probable cause to believe that a third party occupying the place to be searched is implicated in the crime. In other words, valid warrants may be issued to search any property, whether or not occupied by a third party, at which there is probable cause to believe that fruits, instrumentalities, or evidence of a crime will be found.

Coker v. Georgia (1977)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The sentence of death for the crime of rape violates the Eighth Amendment.

U.S. v. Watson (1976)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The cases construing the Fourth Amendment reflect the common-law rule that a peace officer was permitted to arrest without a warrant for a misdemeanor or felony committed in their presence, as well as for a felony not committed in their presence if there was reasonable ground for making the arrest.

Goss v. Lopez (1975)

Topic: Due Process

Students facing temporary suspension from a public school have property and liberty interests that qualify for protection under the Due Process Clause.

Taylor v. Louisiana (1975)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

The requirement that a jury be selected from a representative cross-section of the community is fundamental to the jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. This requirement is violated by the systematic exclusion of women from jury panels.

U.S. v. Edwards (1974)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Once an accused has been lawfully arrested and is in custody, the effects in their possession at the place of detention that were subject to search at the time and place of the arrest may lawfully be searched and seized without a warrant even after a substantial time lapse between the arrest and later administrative processing, on the one hand, and the taking of the property for use as evidence, on the other.

Branzburg v. Hayes (1972)

Topic: Free Speech

The First Amendment does not relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation to respond to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation. Therefore, the First Amendment does not afford a reporter a constitutional testimonial privilege for an agreement that they make to conceal facts relevant to a grand jury's investigation of a crime or to conceal the criminal conduct of their source or evidence of it.

Blonder Tongue v. University of Illinois Foundation (1971)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

Res judicata and collateral estoppel are affirmative defenses that must be pleaded to give the opposing party notice of the plea of estoppel and a chance to argue why the imposition of estoppel would be inappropriate.

California v. Green (1970)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment is not violated by admitting a declarant's out-of-court statements as long as they are testifying as a witness at trial and are subject to full cross-examination.

Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. FCC (1969)

Topic: Free Speech

It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail. The right of the viewers and listeners, rather than the right of the broadcasters, is paramount.

Duncan v. Louisiana (1968)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a right to a jury trial in all criminal cases that would come within the Sixth Amendment guarantee of trial by jury if they were tried in a federal court. Crimes carrying possible penalties up to six months do not require a jury trial if they otherwise qualify as petty offenses.

Camara v. Municipal Court (1967)

Topic: Government Agencies

The Fourth Amendment bars prosecution of a person who has refused to permit a warrantless code enforcement inspection of their personal residence. Warrantless administrative searches cannot be justified on the grounds that they make minimal demands on occupants, that warrants in these cases are not feasible, or that area inspection programs could not function under reasonable search warrant requirements.

Commissioner v. Brown (1965)

Topic: Taxes

It does not follow from the fact that there was no risk-shifting from seller to buyer that a transaction was not a sale but instead a device to collect future earnings at capital gains rates for which the price set was excessive.

Schlude v. Commissioner (1963)

Topic: Taxes

It was proper for the Commissioner to include as income of a dance studio in a particular year advance payments by way of cash, negotiable notes, and contract installments falling due but remaining unpaid during that year.