Sherman Minton Supreme Court nomination
NomineeSherman Minton
Nominated byHarry S. Truman (president of the United States)
SucceedingWiley Rutledge (associate justice)
Date nominatedSeptember 15, 1949
Date confirmedOctober 4, 1949
OutcomeConfirmed by the U.S. Senate
Vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Votes in favor9
Votes against2
Not voting1
ResultReported favorably
Senate vote on motion to return the nomination to committee
Votes in favor21
Votes against45
Not voting30
ResultMotion to recommit failed
Senate confirmation vote
Votes in favor48
Votes against16
Not voting32

Sherman Minton was nominated to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by U.S. President Harry S. Truman on September 14, 1949, after the death in office of Wiley Rutledge created a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Per the Constitution of the United States, Minton's nomination was subject to the advice and consent of the United States Senate, which holds the determinant power to confirm or reject nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination was met with a mixed reception and faced active opposition stemming both from the belief that Minton would be a liberal justice and from his history as a New Deal-supporting member of the United States Senate. There was an unsuccessful effort to compel Minton to testify before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Nevertheless, the nomination was approved by a 48–16 vote of the United States Senate on October 4, 1949.


Minton photographed in 1940

At a September 15, 1949, news conference, Truman announced Minton's nomination to the Supreme Court, succeeding the late Justice Wiley Rutledge.[1] Minton had already privately accepted the nomination several days earlier after a telephone conversation with Truman.[2] Truman touted Minton's extensive law education and his years of experience on the circuit courts as the reason for his nomination.[2] The Senate formally received the nomination that same day.[3] Minton was the first United States Supreme Court nominee to hail from the state of Indiana.[4]

Minton had served eight years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after being appointed in 1941 by then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Before this he had served stints as an administrative assistant in Roosevelt's White House, a member of the United States Senate, and public counselor to the Indiana Public Service Commission.[5] In the United States Senate, Minton's desk in the United States Senate Chamber was next to that of Truman's from 1935 until 1941, and the two had become close friends during this time. While Minton had previously been rumored as a potential appointee to a Cabinet post or a Supreme Court judgeship, Truman had previously declined to do so citing his desire not to overtax Minton due to Minton's health issues related to a heart condition and anemia.[4]

During the long debate over Minton's appointment, criticism would largely focus on his partisanship, past support of the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 court packing plan during his time in the Senate, and his poor health.[2]

News of Minton's appointment received mixed reviews nationally.[6] A great many city newspapers gave what The Cincinnati Enquirer characterized as a "chilly" response to the nomination, much of which,

Recalled his days as a fire-eating New Dealer and a legislator who sought to "muzzle the press" with a federal measure to provide stiff penalties for publishing "false" matter.[7]

The New York Times said that Truman had allowed personal and political friendship to influence his choice.[2][8] The New Republic said "the President is again reverting to his deplorable habit of choosing men for high post because they happen to be his friends...." The Washington Post raised questions about Minton's ability to be confirmed by the Senate due to the power many of his foes held in the body.[2] The Indianapolis Star offered a more sympathetic opinion, pointing out Minton's qualifications and the pride Indiana could take in having a native on the Supreme Court. The article noted that he would be the most educated justice on the court, should he be confirmed.[2] Another outlying sympathetic newspaper was The Courier-Journal, whose publisher had previously served with Minton on a federal government fact-finding board.[7]

The Indianapolis News noted that speculation had quickly arisen that Minton might be a "liberal" justice. They contrasted this with Truman's previous nominated judges, which the newspaper described of having, "lined up generally with the middle-of-the-road majority."[4] On this note, newspapers and other critics also negatively likened Minton's philosophy and background to that of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Minton's former Senate colleague.[7][9]

Judiciary Committee review

See also: Senate Judiciary Committee reviews of nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States

As was long-standing standard procedure for Supreme Court nominations, the nomination was first referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Judiciary Committee) for review.[10] Indiana Senator William E. Jenner led a push by opponents of Minton's nomination, including some of Minton's old foes, to bring him before the Senate Judiciary Committee for hearings.[6] Minton wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee answering several of their questions, but refused to submit himself to a hearing.[11][12] He mentioned his broken leg and hinted in his letter that it could be detrimental to his health to travel in his condition.[2] He also stated that, as a sitting judge and former member of the Senate, it would be improper for him submit to a hearing.[13] Minton responded to questions over his past support for the 1937 court packing scheme in the letter, declaring that as the Senate leader at the time of his scheme he had a right and duty to support the scheme, but as a federal judge his role had now changed to that of a referee rather than a player.[14] The text of Minton's letter was made publicly available.[15] Minton's nomination had faced intense questioning from Republican Senators on his past support for the failed 1937 court packing scheme. Although hearings had occurred irregularly in the past, it was not customary at that time to have a hearing on a nominee.[16] During an absence of Jenner's, Minton's allies worked to have the hearing request dropped.[2] The Judiciary Committee held a single public hearing without Minton's presence on September 27, 1949, on his nomination.[10][17][18]

While the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted 5–4 to call for Minton to be questioned, one week later on October 3, 1949, they voted 9–3 to reverse this action and no longer call for it.[19] The second vote saw the attendance of three Democratic members that had been absent from the earlier vote and also saw a fourth Democratic member switch his vote. After this, Senator Homer S. Ferguson (R– MI) angrily left the committee chamber and voiced his dissatisfaction to reporters that he would be unable to ask Minton questions he had intended to pose to him.[20] The Judiciary Committee then proceeded to vote 9–2 to forward his nomination to the full Senate with a favorable report.[2][10]

Failed motion to recommit the nomination

On October 4, 1949, the Senate met to consider the nomination. Minton's opponents launched numerous delaying tactics and the Senate session before the vote to confirm Minton, which lasted until midnight.[2] Opposition on the floor was led by Wayne Morse.[21] Homer S. Ferguson was also key in these efforts.[2] One of these tactics saw Senator Morse put forth a motion to have the nomination returned to committee. This motion failed, 45–21.[2][21]

Vote to recommit the Minton nomination[21]
October 4, 1949 Party Total votes
Democratic Republican
Yea 2 19 21
Nay 36 9 45
Result: Motion defeated

Confirmation vote

Minton confirmation was approved 48–16 in a vote held on October 4, 1949.[2] Minton was thereafter sworn into office on October 12.[22] To date, Minton remains the last member of Congress, sitting or former, to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.[2][14] He is also the only individual that was born in Indiana to be appointed to the court.[14] Minton served on the court for seven years, before retiring on October 15, 1956.[5]

Vote to confirm the Minton nomination[21]
October 4, 1949 Party Total votes
Democratic Republican
Yea 36 12 48
Nay 2 14 16
Result: Confirmed

See also


  1. ^ Ariens, Michael. "Sherman Minton biography". Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Gugin, Linda; St. Clair, James E. (1997). Sherman Minton: New Deal Senator, Cold War Justice. Indiana Historical Society. pp. 3, 14–15, 18–19, 24, 27. ISBN 978-0-87195-116-8.
  3. ^ McMillion, Barry J. (January 28, 2022). "Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2020: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Judge Sherman Minton Named to High Court". The Indianapolis News. September 15, 1949. Retrieved 9 September 2022 – via
  5. ^ a b "LII: Supreme Court: Chief Justices". Cornell Law School. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  6. ^ a b Radcliff, William Franklin (1996). Sherman Minton: Indiana's Supreme Court Justice. Indianapolis, Indiana: Guild Press of Indiana. pp. 2, 131–132. ISBN 978-1-878208-81-1.
  7. ^ a b c "Minton's Appointment Gets Chilly Reception". The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 24, 1949. Retrieved 9 September 2022 – via
  8. ^ Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993). A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the decisions that transformed America. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-671-76787-7.
  9. ^ Riggs, Robert L. (September 18, 1949). "People Who Were Afraid of Black Fear Minton for The Same Reason". The Coutier-Journal. Retrieved 9 September 2022 – via
  10. ^ a b c McMillion, Barry J.; Rutkus, Denis Steven (July 6, 2018). "Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2017: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  11. ^ "Sherman Minton Moot Court Competition: Who Was Sherman Minton?". Bloomington, Indiana: Maurer School of Law. 2012. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Senate Historical Office. "Senate History, October 1, 1949: Supreme Court Nominee Refuses to Testify". United States Senate. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  13. ^ Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1993 (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc. p. 433. ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.
  14. ^ a b c Glass, Andrew (October 1, 2014). "SCOTUS nominee refuses to testify, Oct. 1, 1949". Politico.
  15. ^ "Text of Minton Letter to Senate Group". The New York Times. October 4, 1949. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  16. ^ Thorpe, James A. (1969). "The Appearance of Supreme Court Nominees Before the Senate Judiciary Committee". Journal of Public Law. 18: 371–402.
  17. ^ Nomination of Sherman Minton. : Hearing, Eighty-first Congress, first session, on the nomination of Sherman Minton, of Indiana, to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. September 27, 1949 - Biddle Law Library - University of Pennsylvania Law School. United States Congress.
  18. ^ "G.O.P. Senators Quiz Minton on High Bench Post". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. United Press. October 3, 1949. Retrieved 27 August 2022 – via
  19. ^ "Supreme Court Opens Session Senate Group Votes to Seat Minton". The Tampa Tribune. The Associated Press. October 4, 1949. Retrieved 9 September 2022 – via
  20. ^ "Senate Judiciary Unit OKs Minton as Justice". The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania). U.P. October 4, 1949. Retrieved 9 September 2022 – via
  21. ^ a b c d Congress and the Nation, 1945-1964: A Review of Government and Politics in the Postwar Years. Congressional Quarterly. 1965. pp. 104a and 105a.
  22. ^ "Justices 1789 to Present". Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved February 15, 2022.