Prof: Justices ‘Irascible, Isolated, Arrogant, Mean’


“To hear both critics and defenders talk about the fitness of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, you'd think the most successful Supreme Court justices had been warm, collegial consensus-builders,” Harvard law Professor Noah Feldman writes in the New York Times. “But history tells a different story. Measured by their lasting impact on Constitution and country, many of the greatest justices have been irascible, socially distant, personally isolated, arrogant or even downright mean.”

Feldman reviews some of the more notoriously socially inept justices, including “the epitome of a great justice with a rough character,” William O. Douglas. Feldman writes, “Douglas was an egotist who barely spoke to his colleagues, loved to vote alone, and once said that his law clerks were ‘the lowest form of human life.’ His personal life was a mess: his divorce in 1953 was the first ever for a sitting justice; he soon followed it up with the second and then the third (each of his four wives was younger and blonder than the previous one). It has never been said better of anyone that he loved humanity and hated people.”

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