U.S. Supreme Court

1940s Justice Influences Terrorism Cases


A justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s has had a major influence in several recent opinions, thanks to one of his former clerks—U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Stevens has relied on World War II-era opinions written by Justice Wiley B. Rut­ledge, who served on the court from 1943 to 1949, in a number of war-on-terrorism cases. For example, “Stevens has managed not only to revive his mentor’s dissents but to use them to craft majority holdings in two prominent cases on the fate of Guantanamo Bay detainees: Rasul v. Bush (PDF), 542 U.S. 466 (2004), and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (PDF), 126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006),” writes the ABA Journal in a lengthy feature story.

Rutledge is also influential with the current court because their predecessors during the 1940s, under pressure to achieve “swift justice,” clearly reached the wrong result in some cases during World War II. “So, of course, they’re sensitive to repeating history,” says Joseph T. Thai, a University of Oklahoma law professor and a former Stevens clerk.

For details of these cases, and more information about Rutledge, as well as Stevens’ relationship with him, read the full story.

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