The Supreme Court Story of Abe Fortas

Abe Fortas was a rising star on the Supreme Court. He argued a still-legendary case before the Court and won. Then was appointed one of its justices. For many, he was seen as the successor to Earl Warren. Yet it was when he was nominated for Chief Justice that opposition to Fortas cemented and the two parties made the Supreme Court an issue. He was, they said, too close to the President, too liberal on issues. And then there were disclosures of contributions he had received were revealed.

After a drawn-out stalemate he withdrew his candidacy for Chief Justice. But it wouldn’t stop there. Fortas also stepped down as an Associate Justice as the administration changed and political pressure increased.

The Fortas case would be revealed later by insider and Watergate persona John Dean as part of an ‘unpacking’ plan that President Nixon had to reduce the left-lean of the Warren court, though it wasn’t obvious at the time. But it’s not that simple either. Fortas’s case also has set a precedent for the danger of having a Justice with a close relationship to the Chief Executive.

[one note of error in this podcast. We mistakenly said Goldberg was JFK’s only SCOTUS appointment. He had two.]