Supreme Court of the United States
Taft Court
July 11, 1921 – February 3, 1930
(8 years, 207 days)
SeatOld Senate Chamber
Washington, D.C.
No. of positions9
Taft Court decisions

The Taft Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1921 to 1930, when William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States. Taft succeeded Edward Douglass White as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and Taft served as Chief Justice until his resignation, at which point Charles Evans Hughes was nominated and confirmed as Taft's replacement. Taft was also the nation's 27th president (1909–13); he is the only person to serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice.

The Taft Court continued the Lochner era and largely reflected the conservatism of the 1920s.[1] The Taft Court is also notable for being the first court able to exert some control over its own docket, as the Judiciary Act of 1925 instituted the requirement that almost all cases receive a writ of certiorari from four justices before appearing before the Supreme Court.[2]


See also: List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States

The Taft Court began in 1921 when President Warren Harding appointed former President William Howard Taft to replace Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, who Taft himself had made Chief Justice in 1910. The Taft Court began with Taft and eight members of the White Court: Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William R. Day, Willis Van Devanter, Mahlon Pitney, James Clark McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, and John Hessin Clarke. In 1922 and 1923, Harding appointed George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Edward Terry Sanford to replace Day, Pitney, and Clarke. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Harlan F. Stone to replace the retiring McKenna.


Bar key:
  McKinley appointee   T. Roosevelt appointee   Taft appointee   Wilson appointee   Harding appointee   Coolidge appointee

1925 photo

The Taft Court in 1925: Seated in the front row are justices James McReynolds, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Taft (chief justice), Willis Van Devanter, and Louis Brandeis. Standing in the back row are justices Edward Sanford, George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Harlan Stone; Justice Butler, a Catholic, was the lone dissenter to Buck v. Bell in 1927.

Other branches

Presidents during this court included Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Congresses during this court included 67th through the 71st United States Congresses.

Selected Rulings of the Court

See also: List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Taft Court

Judicial philosophy

The Taft Court struck down numerous economic regulations in defense of a laissez-faire economy, but largely avoided striking down laws that affected civil liberties.[5] The court struck down both federal and state regulations, with the latter often being struck down on basis of the dormant commerce clause.[6] The court also tended to take the side of businesses over unions, rarely intervened to protect minorities, and generally issued conservative rulings with regard to criminal procedure.[7] During the preceding White Court, progressives came close to taking control of the court, but Harding's appointments shored up the conservative wing.[5] Holmes and Brandeis (and Clarke, before his retirement) formed the progressive wing of the court and were more willing to uphold government regulations. McReynolds, Van Devanter, and the Harding appointees (Taft, Sutherland, Butler, and Sanford) made up the conservative bloc and frequently voted to strike down progressive legislation such as child labor laws.[5] Van Devanter, Taft, Sutherland, Butler, and Sanford formed a cohesive quintet that often voted together, while McReynolds was more likely than the others to dissent from the right.[8] The departures of Pitney and Day left Joseph McKenna as the lone swing justice, though McKenna became more conservative as he neared retirement.[5] In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Attorney General Harlan F. Stone to replace McKenna, and Stone surprised many by aligning with Holmes and Brandeis.[9]


  1. ^ Renstrom, Peter (2003). The Taft Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 3–4. ISBN 9781576072806. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ Galloway, Russell Wl Jr. (1 January 1985). "The Taft Court (1921-29)". Santa Clara Law Review. 25 (1): 21–22. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ Galloway Jr., 12
  4. ^ Galloway Jr., 19
  5. ^ a b c d Galloway Jr., 1-4
  6. ^ Post, Robert (2002). "FEDERALISM IN THE TAFT COURT ERA: CAN IT BE "REVIVED"?". Duke Law Journal. 51 (5): 1606–1608. doi:10.2307/1373157. JSTOR 1373157. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Galloway Jr., 47-48
  8. ^ Galloway Jr., 12-13
  9. ^ Galloway Jr., 16-17

Further reading

Works centering on the Taft Court[edit]

  • Burton, David Henry (1998). Taft, Holmes, and the 1920s Court: An Appraisal. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 9780838637685.
  • Renstrom, Peter G. (2003). The Taft Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576072806.

Works centering on Taft Court judges[edit]

  • Arkes, Hadley (1997). The Return of George Sutherland: Restoring a Jurisprudence of Natural Rights. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691016283.
  • Mason, Alpheus Thomas (January 1969). "President by Chance, Chief Justice by Choice". American Bar Association Journal. 55 (1): 35–39. JSTOR 25724643.
  • Rosen, Jeffrey (2016). Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300158670.
  • Rosen, Jeffrey (2018). William Howard Taft. Times Books. ISBN 9781250293695., brief popular biography
  • Slater, Stephanie L. (2018). Edward Terry Sanford: A Tennessean on the US Supreme Court. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781621903697.
  • Urofsky, Melvin (2012). Louis D. Brandeis: A Life. Schocken Books. ISBN 9780805211955.
  • White, G. Edward (1995). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198024330.

Other relevant works[edit]

  • Abraham, Henry Julian (2008). Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742558953.
  • Anderson, Donald F. (Winter 2000). "Building National Consensus: The Career of William Howard Taft". University of Cincinnati Law Review. 68: 323–356.