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Favorable or Unfavorable #253: William O Douglas


Favorable or Unfavorable #253: William O Douglas  

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  1. 1. Did you read my first comment?

  2. 2. Favorable or Unfavorable #253: William O Douglas

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WO Douglas of MN was the most politically active sitting-SC Justice in history and also the most liberal. He was probably the most extreme proponent of the "living constitution" idea. In his opinion, the Constitution is a living document and a political document and that justices should act for the benefit/protection of the people. He was more of a left-libertarian than what a standard progressive or liberal. Right to privacy and 1st Amendment rights were his largest areas of defense, both areas Libertarians tend to focus on. However, he was also pacifistic and strongly pro-Environment.

He was the longest serving judge. Face two failed impeachment attempts (never went to a vote), although in both cases it was just partisan reactions without any grounds for the impeachment. Twice considered for VP. He also wrote 30 books and possibly wrote the most court case opinions/docs/etc., and he gave the most speeches ever by a SC Justice. He was married 4 times, probably because of charges that he was a very difficult person to be around or work for. Justice Brennan, although sometimes critical of Douglas, believed Douglas and one other person (Posner) were the only geniuses he ever met in his life. Douglas was probably the most original and independent thinker ever on the court. 

His actions:

Douglas, William O 1939 Confirmed, at age 40, to the SC for FDR; recommended by Brandeis, who was retiring
Douglas, William O 1944 Considered for VP at Dem Conv
Douglas, William O 1944 Surprises some, including himself, by upholding case defending Japanese internment camps
Douglas, William O 1948 declines movement to draft him for pres; Declines Truman's offer to b/c VP on ticket
Douglas, William O 1953 Faced the beginning process of impeachment for granting an unpopular stay of execution in Rosenberg Case
Douglas, William O 1965 Authors opinion establishing right to privacy (Griswold v. CT)
Douglas, William O 1967 Joins minority opposing ruling that gays are psychopathic and can be denied entry into the US (Boutillier v Immigration)
Douglas, William O 1968? States that the Vietnam War is unconstitutional because a war was not declared by Congress
Douglas, William O 1968 Uses his power to block Army reservists from going to Vietnam until all other SC judges override him
Douglas, William O 1970 Faces potential impeachment again, urged by Rep. Gerald Ford, on his liberal opinions and defense of a "filthy" film
Douglas, William O 1972 Dissents in Sierra Club v. Morton, argues trees, ships, etc have legal personalities and should have standing to sue for their own preservation
Douglas, William O 1973 Takes Rep. Holtzman's case to issue court order to stop bombing in Cambodia, but all other SC judges override him
Douglas, William O 1975 Resigns from the SC after a stroke, serving a record nearly 37 years
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I think I would dislike him in person, and I am a little bothered by some of his methods, but I think his heart was in the right place. I find myself almost always in agreement with him. Some of you may remember Patine in this forum. He was someone that was ideologically similar to me, and who I think had his heart in a good place, but he just had the worst personality and interpersonal give-and-take of anyone I've ever known or read about. While he rightfully was banned on this forum, were he a SC Justice, I'd probably strongly support him, even while keeping him banned on the forum. 

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