1939 April 15

William O. Douglas Joins Supreme Court


William O. Douglas was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became one of the greatest civil libertarians in the history of the Court. His term on the Court (36 years and 209 days from 1939 to 1975), is the longest term in the history of the Supreme Court. At the time of his appointment, however, there was no indication that he had strong civil liberties convictions — he was known primarily for his support for President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. In 1975, Time magazine called Douglas “the most doctrinaire and committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the court.”

There were two Congressional attempts to remove Douglas from the Court, both unsuccessful. His resignation in 1975 was prompted by a debilitation stroke.

Douglas’ most important Court opinion was in Griswold v. Connecticut, June 7, 1965, establishing a constitutional right to privacy.

Read the biography: Bruce Allen Murphy, The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas (2003)

Learn more about Justice Douglas at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/william-o-douglas-ardent-first-amendment-defender

Learn more about William O. Douglas’ life and career: http://yakimavalleymuseum.org/identity/douglas.cfm

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