Book Review: Chief Justice Stone and the Supreme Court

Edwin Borchard, Yale Law School


Realizing that the higher one goes in the judicial hierarchy the more judicial doctrine tends to become subjective jurisprudence, and that the Supreme Court is a highly organized political body, the author, a teacher of political science, essays in minor degree by a number of articles the task of giving the public a profile of Chief Justice Stone's contribution to constitutional doctrine. Preceded by an informative personal note from Charles A. Beard, the Dean of American historians, the profile is presented in the light of a few leading doctrines which, while fundamental, do not do complete justice to Chief Justice Stone's magnificent contributions. The author is of course less interested in the Chief Justice's personality than in the constitutional views which are expressed in his many opinions. Also, he is more interested in the Chief Justice's conceptions of the judicial function than in the particular decisions the Chief Justice has written. The author notes, for example, the frequency with which Mr. Justice Stone's dissenting opinions became in a later day the majority opinion of the Court. The Chief Justice is distinguished by a certain prophetic vision of the direction in which public policy is likely to go, and for that reason must have felt himself at home when the five conservatives of the pre-1936 days became gradually a dissenting minority, and the dissenters of those days, led by Holmes, Brandeis, Stone and Cardozo, represented the prevailing majority.