|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
May 14, 1970 –August 3, 1994
|Nominated by||Richard Nixon|
|Preceded by||Abe Fortas|
|Succeeded by||Stephen Breyer|
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
September 21, 1959 –June 8, 1970
|Nominated by||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|Preceded by||John B. Sanborn Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Donald Roe Ross|
Harry Andrew Blackmun
November 12, 1908
Nashville, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||March 4, 1999 90) (aged|
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Education||Harvard University (AB, LLB)|
Harry Andrew Blackmun (November 12, 1908 – March 4, 1999) was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 until 1994. Appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon, Blackmun ultimately became one of the most liberal justices on the Court. He is best known as the author of the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade , which prohibits many state and federal restrictions on abortion.
Raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Blackmun graduated from Harvard Law School in 1932. He practiced law in the Twin Cities, representing clients such as the Mayo Clinic. In 1959, he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the defeat of two previous nominees, President Richard Nixon successfully nominated Blackmun to the Supreme Court to replace Associate Justice Abe Fortas. Blackmun and his close friend, conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger, were often referred to as the "Minnesota Twins", but Blackmun drifted away from Burger during their tenure on the court. Blackmun retired from the Court during the administration of President Bill Clinton, and was succeeded by Stephen Breyer.
Aside from Roe v. Wade, notable majority opinions written by Blackmun include Bates v. State Bar of Arizona , Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia , and Stanton v. Stanton . He joined part of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey but also filed a separate opinion, warning that Roe was in jeopardy. He wrote dissenting opinions in notable cases such as Furman v. Georgia , Bowers v. Hardwick , and DeShaney v. Winnebago County .
Harry Blackmun was born on November 12, 1908 in Nashville, Illinois, to Theo Huegely (Reuter) and Corwin Manning Blackmun.Three years after his birth, his baby brother, Corwin Manning Blackmun, Jr., died soon after birth; his sister Betty was born in 1917. Blackmun grew up in Dayton's Bluff, a working-class neighborhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where his father owned a small store. He attended the same grade school as future Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, with whom he eventually served on the Supreme Court for sixteen years. Blackmun attended Mechanic Arts High School in Saint Paul, where he graduated fourth in his class of 450 in 1925. He had expected to attend the University of Minnesota; however, he received a scholarship to attend Harvard University, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with an Artium Baccalaureus degree in mathematics in 1929. While at Harvard, Blackmun joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and sang with the Harvard Glee Club (with whom he performed for President Herbert Hoover in 1929, Blackmun's first visit to Washington). He attended Harvard Law School (among his professors there was future Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter), graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in 1932. After graduating from law school, Blackmun returned to Minnesota, where he served in a variety of positions including private counsel, law clerk, and adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School and William Mitchell College of Law (then the St. Paul College of Law). Blackmun's practice as an attorney at the law firm now known as Dorsey & Whitney focused in its early years on taxation, trusts and estates, and civil litigation. He married Dorothy Clark in 1941 and had three daughters with her, Nancy, Sally, and Susan. Between 1950 and 1959, Blackmun served as resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He would later describe his time at Mayo as "his happiest time" (while describing his later work on the judiciary as where he "performed his duty").
In the late 1950s, Blackmun's close friend Warren E. Burger, then an appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, repeatedly encouraged Blackmun to seek a judgeship. Judge John B. Sanborn Jr. of the Eighth Circuit, whom Blackmun had clerked for after graduating from Harvard, told Blackmun of his plans to assume senior status. He said that he would suggest Blackmun's name to the Eisenhower administration if Blackmun wished to succeed him. After much urging by Sanborn and Burger, Blackmun agreed to accept the nomination, duly offered by Eisenhower and members of the Justice Department.Blackmun was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 18, 1959, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated by Judge John B. Sanborn Jr. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave him a rating of "exceptionally well qualified", and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 14, 1959, and received his commission on September 21, 1959. Over the next decade, Blackmun would author 217 opinions for the Eighth Circuit. His service on the Court of Appeals ended on June 8, 1970 due to his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Blackmun was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon on April 14, 1970, and was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 12, 1970, by a 94–0 vote.He received his commission on May 14, 1970 and took the oath of office on June 9, 1970. Blackmun was Nixon's third choice to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Abe Fortas on May 14, 1969. His confirmation followed contentious battles over two previous, failed nominations forwarded by Nixon in 1969–1970, those of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell. Nixon's original choice, Lewis F. Powell Jr., turned him down but later joined the Court in 1972. Blackmun served as Circuit Justice for the Eighth Circuit from June 9, 1970 to August 2, 1994 and for the First Circuit from August 7, 1990 to October 8, 1990.
Blackmun, a lifelong Republican, was expected to adhere to a conservative interpretation of the Constitution. The Court's Chief Justice at the time, Warren Burger, a long-time friend of Blackmun's and best man at his wedding, had recommended Blackmun for the job to Nixon. The two were often referred to as the "Minnesota Twins" (a reference to the baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, in turn named after the "Twin Cities" of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) because of their common history in Minnesota and because they so often voted together. Indeed, Blackmun voted with Burger in 87.5 percent of the closely divided cases during his first five terms (1970 to 1975), and with William J. Brennan, the Court's leading liberal, in only 13 percent.In 1972, Blackmun joined Burger and the other two Nixon appointees to the Court in dissenting from the Furman v. Georgia decision that invalidated all capital punishment laws then in force in the United States, and in 1976, he voted to reinstate the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia , even the mandatory death penalty statutes, although in both instances he indicated his personal opinion of its shortcomings as a policy. Blackmun, however, insisted his political opinions should have no bearing on the death penalty's constitutionality.
That began to change, however, between 1975 and 1980, by which time Blackmun was joining Brennan in 54.5 percent of the divided cases, and Burger in 45.5 percent.Shortly after Blackmun dissented in Rizzo v. Goode (1976), William Kunstler embraced him and "welcom[ed] him to the company of the 'liberals and the enlightened.'"
From 1981 to 1986 when Burger retired, the two men voted together in only 32.4 percent of close cases, whereas Blackmun joined Brennan in 70.6 percent of the close cases.
In 1973, Blackmun authored the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade , invalidating a Texas statute making it a felony to administer an abortion in most circumstances. The Court's judgment in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton held a less restrictive Georgia law to be unconstitutional also. Both decisions were based on the right to privacy announced in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and remain the primary basis for the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Roe caused an immediate uproar, and Blackmun's opinion made him a target for criticism by opponents of abortion, receiving voluminous negative mail and death threats over the case.
Blackmun became a passionate advocate for abortion rights, often delivering speeches and lectures promoting Roe v. Wade as essential to women's equality and criticizing Roe's critics. Defending abortion, in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Blackmun wrote:
Few decisions are more personal and intimate, more properly private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy, than a woman's decision – with the guidance of her physician and within the limits specified in Roe – whether to end her pregnancy. A woman's right to make that choice freely is fundamental ...
Blackmun filed separate opinions in 1989's Webster v. Reproductive Health Services and 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey , warning that Roe was in jeopardy: "I am 83 years old. I cannot remain on this Court forever, and when I do step down, the confirmation process for my successor well may focus on the issue before us today. That, I regret, may be exactly where the choice between the two worlds will be made."
Ancillary to the primary right to abortion, Blackmun extended First Amendment protection to commercial speech in Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia , a case where the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of an editor who ran an advertisement for an abortion referral service.
After Roe, Blackmun began to drift away from the influence of Chief Justice Warren Burger to increasingly side with liberal Justice Brennan in finding constitutional protection for unenumerated individual rights. For example, Blackmun wrote a dissent to the Court's opinion in 1986's Bowers v. Hardwick . The Court's ruling in this case denied constitutional protection to homosexual sodomy. Burger's opinion in Bowers read: "To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching." In his dissent, Blackmun responded by quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes: "[i]t is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past." Burger and Blackmun drifted apart, and as the years passed, their lifelong friendship degenerated into a hostile and contentious relationship.
From the 1981 term through the 1985 term, Blackmun voted with Brennan 77.6% of the time, and with Thurgood Marshall 76.1%.From 1986 to 1990, his rate of agreement with the two most liberal justices was 97.1% and 95.8%.
Blackmun's judicial philosophy increasingly seemed guided by Roe, even in areas where Roe was not apparently directly applicable. His concurring opinion in 1981's Michael M. v. Superior Court of Sonoma County , a case that upheld statutory rape laws that applied only to men, did not directly implicate Roe, but because the laws were justified on the basis that women would be subject to the "risk" of pregnancy, Blackmun had cause to discuss Roe further in his opinion.
Despite his stated personal "abhorrence" for the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia , he voted to uphold mandatory death penalty statutes at issue in 1976's Roberts v. Louisiana and Woodson v. North Carolina , even though these laws would have automatically imposed the death penalty on anyone found guilty of first-degree murder. But on February 22, 1994, less than two months before announcing his retirement, Blackmun announced that he now saw the death penalty as always and in all circumstances unconstitutional by issuing a dissent from the Court's refusal to hear a routine death penalty case ( Callins v. Collins ), declaring that "[f]rom this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." Subsequently, adopting the practice begun by Justices Brennan and Marshall, he issued a dissent from denial of certiorari in every death penalty case, citing and reiterating his Callins dissent. As Linda Greenhouse and others have reported, Blackmun's law clerks prepared what would become the Callins dissent well in advance of the case coming before the Court; Blackmun's papers indicate that work began on the dissent in the summer of 1993, and in a memo preserved in Blackmun's papers, the clerk writing the dissent wrote Blackmun that:
[t]his is a very personal dissent, and I have struggled to adopt your 'voice' to the best of my ability. I have tried to put myself in your shoes and write a dissent that would reflect the wisdom you have gained, and the frustration you have endured, as a result of twenty years of enforcing the death penalty on this Court.
Blackmun and his clerks then sought an appropriate case to serve as a "vehicle for [the] dissent," and settled on Callins. – three times within the first two paragraphs, and twice in footnote 2.That the case found the dissent, rather than the more traditional relationship of the dissent relating to the case, is underscored by the opinion's almost total omission of reference to the case it ostensibly addressed: Callins is relegated to a supernumerary in his own appeal, being mentioned but five times in a 42-paragraph opinion
In his emotional dissent in 1989's DeShaney v. Winnebago County , rejecting the constitutional liability of the state of Wisconsin for four-year-old Joshua DeShaney, who was beaten until brain-damaged by his abusive father, Blackmun famously opined, "Poor Joshua!" In his dissent in 1993's Herrera v. Collins , where the Court refused to find a constitutional right for convicted prisoners to introduce new evidence of "actual innocence" for purposes of obtaining federal relief, Blackmun argued in a section joined by no other justice that "The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder."
In Stanton v. Stanton (1975), a case striking down a state's definitions of adulthood (males reaching it at 21, women at 18), Blackmun wrote:
A child, male or female, is still a child ... No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family, and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas ... If a specified age of minority is required for the boy in order to assure him parental support while he attains his education and training, so, too, is it for the girl.
Compared to other Justices on the Supreme Court, Blackmun gave his law clerks great latitude in drafting opinions, such as his opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey , which was written by Stephanie Dangel, then one of Blackmun's clerk and now a lawyer in Pennsylvania.Blackmun's Casey opinion draft included sharp criticism of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, which included, according to Dangel, a sarcastic reference to Rehnquist as "The Chief" rather than Chief Justice because "I have my doubts as to whether he deserves to be called 'justice' on this one." Dangel, however, changed it to "Chief Justice" at the urging of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
It has also been revealed by Blackmun in a 1995 oral history with Harold Koh that his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick was written by a clerk, Pam Karlan. Blackmun said of the dissent; "[K]arlan did a lot of very effective writing, and I owe a lot to her and her ability in getting that dissent out. She felt very strongly about it, and I think is correct in her approach to it. I think the dissent is correct."
Blackmun's clerks included Edward B. Foleyand Chai Feldblum.
When Blackmun's papers were released at the Library of Congress, his sometimes negative notations regarding fellow Justice Clarence Thomas came to light.However, Thomas spoke positively of Blackmun when he appeared in 2001 at the dedication of the Harry A. Blackmun Rotunda at the St. Louis federal courthouse, mentioning that Blackmun drove a blue Volkswagen Beetle and would tell fast food patrons that he was "Harry. I work for the government."
Blackmun and Justice Potter Stewart shared an obsessive following of baseball. In one oral argument on October 10, 1973, Stewart passed Blackmun a note that read, "V.P. AGNEW JUST RESIGNED!! METS 2 REDS 0." (The game in question was the 5th and deciding game of the 1973 National League Championship Series, and the Mets would eventually win that game 7-2, sending them to the 1973 World Series.)
Blackmun announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in April 1994, four months before he officially left the bench, assuming retired status on August 3, 1994. By then, he had become the court's most liberal justice.In his place, President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer who was confirmed by the Senate 87–9.
In 1995, Blackmun received the United States Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
In 1997, Blackmun portrayed Justice Joseph Story in the Steven Spielberg film Amistad ,making him the only United States Supreme Court justice to have played a judge in a motion picture.
On February 22, 1999, Blackmun fell in his home and broke his hip. The next day, he underwent hip replacement surgery at Arlington Hospital in Arlington, Virginia, but he never fully recovered. Ten days later, on March 4, at the age of 90, he died at 1:00 A.M. from complications from the procedure. He lay in repose in the Great Hall of the United States Supreme Court Building, and was buried five days later at Arlington National Cemetery.His wife died seven years later on July 13, 2006, at the age of 95, and was buried next to him.
In 2004 the Library of Congress released his voluminous files. Blackmun had kept all the documents from every case, notes the Justices passed between themselves, 10 percent of the mail he received, and numerous other documents. After Blackmun announced his retirement from the Court, he recorded a 38-hour oral history with one of his former law clerks, former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh, which was also released. In it, he discusses his thoughts on everything from his important Court cases to the Supreme Court piano, though some Supreme Court experts such as David Garrow have cast doubt on the accuracy of some of Blackmun's recollections, especially his thoughts on the Court's deliberations on Roe v. Wade.
Based on these papers, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times wrote Becoming Justice Blackmun. Jan Crawford's Supreme Conflict also draws heavily from the papers.
Sandra Day O'Connor is a retired attorney, politician, and the first woman Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a position she held from 1981 until her retirement in 2006. She was the first woman nominated and confirmed. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, she was considered the swing vote for the Rehnquist Court and the beginning of the Roberts Court.
Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White was an American lawyer and professional football player who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1962 to 1993. Born and raised in Colorado, he played college football, basketball, and baseball for the University of Colorado, finishing as the runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 1937. He was selected in the first round of the 1938 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and led the National Football League in rushing yards in his rookie season. White was admitted to Yale Law School in 1939 and played for the Detroit Lions in the 1940 and 1941 seasons while still attending law school. During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer with the United States Navy in the Pacific Theatre. After the war, he graduated from Yale and clerked for Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. It struck down many U.S. federal and state abortion laws, and prompted an ongoing national debate in the United States about whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role of religious and moral views in the political sphere should be. Roe v. Wade reshaped American politics, dividing much of the United States into abortion rights and anti-abortion movements, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case regarding abortion. In a plurality opinion, the Court upheld the constitutional right to have an abortion that was established in Roe v. Wade (1973), but altered the standard for analyzing restrictions on that right, crafting the undue burden standard for abortion restrictions.
John Paul Stevens was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1975 until his voluntary retirement in 2010. At the time of his retirement, he was the second-oldest-serving justice in the history of the court and the third-longest-serving justice. At the time of his death, he was the longest lived Supreme Court justice ever. His long tenure saw him write for the court on most issues of American law, including civil liberties, death penalty, government action and intellectual property. In cases involving presidents of the United States, he wrote for the court that they were to be held accountable under American law. A registered Republican when appointed who throughout his life identified as a conservative, Stevens was considered to have been on the liberal side of the court at the time of his retirement.
Warren Earl Burger was the 15th chief justice of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1986. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Burger graduated from the St. Paul College of Law in 1931. He helped secure the Minnesota delegation's support for Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1952 Republican National Convention. After Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election, he appointed Burger to the position of Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division. In 1956, Eisenhower appointed Burger to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Burger served on this court until 1969 and became known as a critic of the Warren Court.
Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court that upheld, in a 5–4 ruling, the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults, in this case with respect to homosexual sodomy, though the law did not differentiate between homosexual sodomy and heterosexual sodomy. This case was overturned in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, though the statute had already been struck down by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1998.
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a unanimous decision against President Richard Nixon, ordering him to deliver tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to a federal district court. Issued on July 24, 1974, the decision was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal, when there was an ongoing impeachment process against Richard Nixon. United States v. Nixon is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president to claim executive privilege.
Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), was a criminal case in which the United States Supreme Court invalidated all death penalty schemes in the United States in a 5–4 decision, with each member of the majority writing a separate opinion. Following Furman, in order to reinstate the death penalty, states had to at least remove arbitrary and discriminatory effects in order to satisfy the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1971 to 1987. Powell compiled a generally conservative and business-aligned record on the Court.
Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court decision on upholding a Missouri law that imposed restrictions on the use of state funds, facilities, and employees in performing, assisting with, or counseling an abortions. The Supreme Court in Webster allowed for states to legislate in an aspect that had previously been thought to be forbidden under Roe v. Wade (1973).
Hodgson v. Minnesota, 497 U.S. 417 (1990), was a United States Supreme Court abortion rights case that dealt with whether a state law may require notification of both parents before a minor can obtain an abortion. The law in question provided a judicial alternative.
DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 489 U.S. 189 (1989), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States on February 22, 1989. The court held that a state government agency's failure to prevent child abuse by a custodial parent does not violate the child's right to liberty for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Rehnquist Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1986 to 2005, when William Rehnquist served as Chief Justice of the United States. Rehnquist succeeded Warren Burger as Chief Justice after the latter's retirement, and Rehnquist served as Chief Justice until his death in 2005, at which point John Roberts was nominated and confirmed as Rehnquist's replacement. The Rehnquist Court is generally considered to be more conservative than the preceding Burger Court, but not as conservative as the succeeding Roberts Court. According to Jeffrey Rosen, Rehnquist combined an amiable nature with great organizational skill, and he "led a Court that put the brakes on some of the excesses of the Earl Warren era while keeping pace with the sentiments of a majority of the country."
The Burger Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1969 to 1986, when Warren Burger served as Chief Justice of the United States. Burger succeeded Earl Warren as Chief Justice after the latter's retirement, and Burger served as Chief Justice until his retirement, at which point William Rehnquist was nominated and confirmed as Burger's replacement. The Burger Court is generally considered to be the last liberal court to date. It has been described as a "transitional" court, due to its transition from having the liberal rulings of the Warren Court to the conservative rulings of the Rehnquist Court.
United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62 (1971), was a United States Supreme Court abortion rights case, which held that the District of Columbia's abortion law banning the practice except when necessary for the health or life of the woman was not unconstitutionally vague.
Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 421 U.S. 809 (1975), was a United States Supreme Court case that established First Amendment protection for advertising.
Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986), was a United States Supreme Court case involving a challenge to Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act of 1982.
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, first as an Associate Justice from 1972 to 1986 and then as Chief Justice from 1986 until his death in 2005. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers to the states. Under this view of federalism, the court, for the first time since the 1930s, struck down an act of Congress as exceeding its power under the Commerce Clause.
Anthony McLeod Kennedy is a retired American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1988 until his retirement in 2018. He was nominated to the court in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, and sworn in on February 18, 1988. After the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006, he was the swing vote on many of the Roberts Court's 5–4 decisions.
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John B. Sanborn Jr.
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit |
Donald Roe Ross
| Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States |