Thursday, October 26, 2006

A New Kind of Rankings Game

Justice Breyer If Antonin Scalia is one of the most careless jurists to ever sit on the Supreme Court, just who is the best and brightest, in terms of pure brain wattage? Among the sitting justices, I propose Justice Breyer, although Justice Roberts may -- if he lives up to his billing - be a strong contender in the future.

Who do you nominate? What about if we open the field to all the justices who have ever sat on the Court -- who wins (and who loses) then?

James WilsonAlso, in the spirit of our companion blog, Moneylaw, let me suggest an additional category: most unlikely to serve. In this category, I nominate James Wilson. Justice Wilson was born in Scotland and attended three different universities there without managing to earn a degree. Despite that (or perhaps because of it) he emigrated to the United States, passed the Philadelphia bar, and started a very successful law practice. He apparently also engaged in land speculation, illegal hoarding of essential goods, and excessive gambling. But he was a good revolutionary and quite a bright fellow, so President Washington gave him a position on the Supreme Court. He served for nine years - in part from a debtors prison when he could no longer avoid repercussions from his financial shenanigans.


Blogger Alfred Brophy said...


Very interesting questions, which have the potential for a lot of fun debates. I'd be curious about people's thoughts on most thoughtful state justices as well.

10/26/2006 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe both Walter Dellinger and Mark Tushnet have stated in the past that, in terms of raw brain power, they believed that Rehnquist was the smartest person on the court. He was, however, less interested in seeming smart than almost any other justice; he was pretty much a conservative legal realist who wasn't concerned with making his decisions seem learned.

10/26/2006 11:28 AM  

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