Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone

Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone joined the U.S. Supreme Court as an Associate Justice on March 2, 1925, replacing Justice Joseph McKenna. He was elevated to Chief Justice on July 3, 1941, replacing Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Stone was born on October 11, 1872 in southwestern New Hampshire, but his family soon moved to western Massachusetts. He graduated from Amherst College in that region in 1894. Stone received his legal education at Columbia Law School, graduating in 1898 and passing the bar soon afterward. During the next decade, he practiced at a law firm while also teaching at Columbia.

From 1910 to 1923, Stone served as the Dean of Columbia Law School. However, his conflicts with Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler caused him to resign and join the Wall Street firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. Stone did not stay there for long, though, since President Calvin Coolidge appointed him as U.S. Attorney General in 1924.

On January 5, 1925, Coolidge nominated Stone to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on February 5 in a 71-6 vote, and he took the judicial oath about a month later. Stone spent the next 16 years as an Associate Justice, during which he formed part of the liberal bloc on the Court.

Stone joined Justices Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Nathan Cardozo as the "Three Musketeers," who generally endorsed the New Deal legislation of President Franklin Roosevelt. They opposed a conservative bloc popularly known as the "Four Horsemen." The Three Musketeers lost some key battles, such as the 1936 decision in U.S. v. Butler in which Stone wrote a vigorous dissent. But they eventually won the war when the Court embraced their deferential view of economic regulations in 1937.

On June 12, 1941, President Roosevelt nominated Stone for the Chief Justice seat on the Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on June 27, and he took the seat about a week later. Justice Robert H. Jackson replaced him as an Associate Justice.

Stone would serve in this role for less than five years, which largely coincided with the Second World War. He wrote one of his most memorable opinions in Ex parte Quirin, which validated the authority of a military tribunal to try German saboteurs. Stone also wrote for the Court in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, shaping the standard for when a state court can hold jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant.

However, Stone is probably best known for a footnote that he wrote as an Associate Justice. This is "footnote four" in the 1938 decision of U.S. v. Carolene Products Co., which applied a "rational basis" standard of review to an economic regulation. Stone wrote that this deference might not apply to "the review of statutes directed at particular religious, national, or racial minorities," among other situations. His suggestion that this "may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry" helped set the stage for the strict scrutiny standard of review in these cases.

Stone died on April 22, 1946 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery there. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson replaced him on the Court.

Selected Opinions by Chief Justice Stone:

International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

To subject a defendant to personal jurisdiction when they are not present in the territory of the forum, the defendant must have certain minimum contacts with the forum such that the maintenance of the lawsuit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Special Equipment Co. v. Coe (1945)

Topic: Patents

A subcombination patent may be used to prevent appropriation by others of a combination invention that the claimant is using when there is no purpose to enlarge the patent monopoly of either invention.

Yakus v. U.S. (1944)

Topic: Separation of Powers; Government Agencies

The essentials of the legislative function are preserved when Congress has specified the basic conditions of fact upon whose existence or occurrence, ascertained from relevant data by a designated administrative agency, it directs that its statutory command shall be effective. It is no objection that the determination of facts and the inferences to be drawn from them in the light of the statutory standards and declaration of policy call for the exercise of judgment, and for the formulation of subsidiary administrative policy within the prescribed statutory framework.

Ex Parte Quirin (1942)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments do not abolish trials by military tribunals or impose on these tribunals the necessity of proceeding against unlawful enemy belligerents only on presentment and trial by jury.

U.S. v. Darby (1941)

Topic: Powers of Congress

While manufacture is not interstate commerce, the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is interstate commerce, and the prohibition of such shipment by Congress is a regulation of interstate commerce.

Hansberry v. Lee (1940)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A judgment rendered in a class suit may be res judicata as to members of the class who are not formal parties to the suit. There is a failure of due process only in cases in which it cannot be said that the procedure adopted fairly ensures the protection of the interests of absent parties who are to be bound by it.

Helvering v. Horst (1940)

Topic: Taxes

The power to dispose of income is the equivalent of ownership of it. The exercise of that power to procure the payment of income to someone else is the enjoyment and hence the realization of the income by the party who exercises it.

Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. U.S. (1939)

Topic: Antitrust

To establish an unlawful agreement to restrain commerce, the government can rely on inferences drawn from the course of conduct of the alleged conspirators.

U.S. v. Carolene Products Co. (1938)

Topic: Due Process; Equal Protection

Regulatory legislation affecting ordinary commercial transactions is not unconstitutional unless it is of such a character as to preclude the assumption that the law rests on a rational basis within the knowledge and experience of the legislature. (Footnote 4 laid the foundation for heightened scrutiny in certain situations involving fundamental rights, the political process, and racial, national, or religious minorities.)

Burnet v. Sanford & Brooks Co. (1931)

Topic: Taxes

Any system of taxation should produce revenue ascertainable and payable to the government at regular intervals. Only by such a system is it practicable to produce a regular flow of income and apply methods of accounting, assessment, and collection capable of practical operation. The computation of income annually as the net result of all transactions within the year is a familiar practice.

Miller v. Schoene (1928)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

When forced to make the choice, the state does not exceed its constitutional powers by deciding on the destruction of one class of property to save another class of property that, in the judgment of the legislature, is of greater value to the public.