Judicial Management and Judicial Disinterest: The Achievements and Perils of Chief Justice William Howard Taft, 1998 Journal of Supreme Court History 50 (1998)
William Howard Taft holds the significant
distinction of being the only person in the history
of the nation to preside over two branches
of the federal government. He was President
from 1909 to 1913, and he was Chief Justice of
theunited States from 1921 to 1930.
This achievement ought to have secured
Taft a prominent position within the history of
the Court. Yet Taft has drifted into almost complete
professional eclipse. Although familiar
to specialists in legal history, Taft is no more
known to the average lawyer or law student
than are Chief Justices White, Fuller, or Waite.
Taft’s contemporary obscurity is remarkable.
When Taft died on March 8, 1930, the
nation convulsed in an overpowering and spontaneous
wave of mourning. He was widely characterized
as “the most beloved of Americans,”
and hailed by observers like Augustus Hand,
then a federal district Judge in New York, as
“the greatest figure as Chief Justice since John
Marshall.” Even Felix Frankfurter, certainly no
admirer of Taft’s jurisprudence, was moved to
observe that “Few public men have evoked such
spontaneous and warm affection from the public
as has Taft. . . . He is a dear man-a true
Date of Authorship for this Version
Post, Robert, "Judicial Management and Judicial Disinterest: The Achievements and Perils of Chief Justice William Howard Taft" (1998). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 4653.