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Who is the longest serving Supreme Court Justice?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about Supreme Court Justices. With the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who was a sitting Justice), there is now an opening on the court close to a presidential election, and it is the president who nominates a candidate for justice and then the senate who confirms or denies the nomination.


This is a big decision, as there is no set term for a Supreme Court Justice. The Constitution states that Justices "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour." This means that the Justices hold office as long as they choose and can only be removed from office by impeachment (the only Justice to be impeached was Associate Justice Samuel Chase in 1805. The House of Representatives passed Articles of Impeachment against him; however, he was acquitted by the Senate.), or a member will be replaced if they pass away while a sitting Justice. The average term of service is just under 17 years, coming in at 16 years, 359 days.


Having remained on her seat for just over 27 years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the 24th longest-serving Supreme Court justice of the 114 to hold the office, and the longest serving female Justice.


Nominated by President George H.W. Bush, Justice Clarence Thomas is the longest-serving member currently sitting on the bench. Even before Ginsburg’s passing, Thomas was the longest-serving member with a tenure of 29 years, 1 day, having been confirmed on October 15th, 1991. His confirmation took 99 days, which happens to also be the longest time to confirm a justice.


The longest-serving justice in the court's history was William O. Douglas, serving 36 years, 209 days.


William Orville Douglas was born on October 16, 1898, in Maine, Minnesota, to Julia Fisk and Reverend William Douglas. The family moved West within a few years, but his father passed away shortly after when Douglas was 6 years old.


Good grades were demanded by his mother and Douglas delivered, graduating valedictorian in 1916. He went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, on a full scholarship. A star of the debating team, student congress president, and president of Beta Theta Pi, Douglas thrived at Whitman. He wrote for the campus literary magazine, occasionally delivered sermons at campus services, and tutored students for his economics professor. Douglas attended law school at Columbia and graduated second in his class in 1925.


At the age of 40, Douglas became the second-youngest Supreme Court appointee in history when he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Roosevelt and confirmed on April 4, 1939, being sworn in on April 17, 1939. He was also among those seriously considered for the 1944 Democratic vice presidential nomination.


Douglas was well-known for his strict commitment to civil liberties and authored many opinions that expressed his views on individual rights, such as free speech. He supported the right to privacy, limits on government interference, and the rights of illegitimate children. While critics claimed his work showed haste and that he did not develop a coherent legal analysis, defenders admired the forceful and blunt manner by which he reached the core issue in each case.


He submitted his resignation letter in 1975 after suffering a stroke, and retired after having served over 36 years on the Supreme Court.






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