Harlan F. Stone, U.S. Attorney General, 12th Chief Justice of the United States

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Harlan Fiske Stone

Birthdate: (73)
Death: April 22, 1946 (73)
Immediate Family:

Son of Frederic Lauson Stone and Ann Sophia Stone
Husband of Agnes E Stone
Father of Marshall H. Stone and Lauson Harvey Stone

Occupation: 12th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:

About Harlan F. Stone, U.S. Attorney General, 12th Chief Justice of the United States


Harlan Fiske Stone (October 11, 1872 – April 22, 1946) was an American lawyer and jurist. A native of New Hampshire, he served as the dean of Columbia Law School, his alma mater, in the early 20th century. As a member of the Republican Party, he was appointed as the 52nd Attorney General of the United States before becoming an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925. In 1941, Stone became the 12th Chief Justice of the court, serving until his death in 1946 - one of the shortest terms of any Chief Justice.

Stone was born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, to Fred L. and Ann S. (Butler) Stone. He prepared at Amherst High School, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1894.

From 1894 to 1895 he was the submaster of Newburyport High School. From 1895 to 1896 he was an instructor in history at Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, New York. He also received his M.A. from Amherst College in 1897.

Legal career

Stone attended Columbia Law School from 1895 to 1898, received an LL.B., and was admitted to the New York bar in 1898.[4] Stone practiced law in New York City, initially as a member of the firm Satterlee, Sullivan & Stone, and later as a partner in the firm Sullivan & Cromwell. From 1899 to 1902 he lectured on law at Columbia Law School. He was a professor there from 1902 to 1905 and eventually served as the school's dean from 1910 to 1923.[4] He lived in The Colosseum (apartment building) near campus.

During World War I, Stone served for several months on a War Department Board of Inquiry, with Major Walter Kellogg of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Corps and Judge Julian Mack, that reviewed the cases of 2,294 men whose requests for conscientious objector status had been denied by their draft boards. The Board was charged with determining the sincerity of each man's principles, but often devoted only a few minutes to interrogation and rendering a decision. Stone was impatient with men who took advantage of the benefits of life in America–using postage stamps was his example–without accepting the burdens of citizenship. In a majority of cases, the Board's subjects either relinquished their claims or were judged insincere. He later summarized his experience with little sympathy: "The great mass of our citizens subordinated their individual conscience and their opinions to the good of the common cause" while "there was a residue whose peculiar beliefs...refused to yield to the opinions of others or to force." Nevertheless, he recognized the courage required to persist as a conscientious objector: "The Army was not a bed of roses for the conscientious objector; and the normal man who was not supported in his stand by profound moral conviction might well have chosen active duty at the front as the easier lot."

At the end of the war, he criticized Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer for his attempts to deport aliens based on administrative action without allowing for any judicial review of their cases.

In 1924, he was appointed United States Attorney General by his Amherst classmate President Calvin Coolidge. As Attorney General, Stone was responsible for the appointment of J. Edgar Hoover as head of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation, which later became the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Associate Justice

On January 5, 1925, Stone was appointed an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court to a seat vacated by Joseph McKenna, becoming Coolidge's only appointment to the Court. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 5 and received his commission the same day.

During the 1932–1937 Supreme Court terms, Stone and his colleagues Justices Brandeis and Cardozo were considered the Three Musketeers of the Supreme Court, its liberal faction. The three were highly supportive of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs, which many other Supreme Court Justices opposed. For example, he wrote for the court in United States v. Darby Lumber Co.,[8] 312 U.S. 100 (1941), which upheld challenged provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Stone also authored the Court's opinion in United States v. Carolene Products Co.,[9] 304 U.S. 144 (1938), which, in its famous "Footnote 4," provided a roadmap for judicial review in the post-Lochner v. New York era.

Stone's support of the New Deal brought him Roosevelt's favor, and on June 12, 1941, the President elevated him to Chief Justice, a position vacated by Charles Evans Hughes. Stone was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 27 and received his commission on July 3. He remained in this position for the rest of his life.

Chief Justice

As Chief Justice, Stone spoke for the Court in upholding the President's power to try Nazi saboteurs captured on American soil by military tribunals in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942). The court's handling of this case has been the subject of scrutiny and controversy.

Stone also wrote one of the major opinions in establishing the standard for state courts to have personal jurisdiction over litigants in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).

As Chief Justice, Stone described the Nuremberg court as "a fraud" to Germans.

In 1946, at the age of 73, Stone died of a cerebral hemorrhage that struck as he read his dissent in Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946) from the bench. He opposed overturning precedents that would have barred a Seventh-day Adventist from being naturalized as a U.S. citizen if he refused to take up military arms during wartime despite being willing to serve as a conscientious objector. He is the only Supreme Court Justice to have died during an open court session.

Stone was the fourth Chief Justice to have previously served as an Associate Justice and the second to have served in both positions consecutively. To date, Justice Stone is the only justice to have occupied all nine seniority positions on the bench, having moved from most junior Associate Justice to most senior Associate Justice and then to Chief Justice.

Other activities

Stone was the director of the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railroad Company, the president of the Association of American Law Schools, and a member of the American Bar Association.

He was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Amherst College in 1900, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Amherst in 1913. Yale awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1924. Columbia and Williams each awarded him the same honorary degree in 1925.

Stone married Agnes E. Harvey in 1899. Their children were Lauson H. Stone and the mathematician Marshall H. Stone. Stone is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. His burial is said to be "quite neighborly with other Justices even after death." Four justices buried in Rock Creek "are essentially paired off." Justice Willis Van Devanter is in a family plot within 40 yards of the senior John Marshall Harlan. Chief Justice and Mrs. Harlan Fiske Stone have a "handsome memorial" within 25 yards of Stephen Johnson Field's "imposing black obelisk".

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Harlan F. Stone, U.S. Attorney General, 12th Chief Justice of the United States's Timeline

October 11, 1872
April 8, 1903
Age 30
New York, New York, New York, United States
Age 32
New York, New York, NY, USA
April 22, 1946
Age 73