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Supreme Court Justices

Sherman Minton (1890-1965)

Sherman Minton was born in Indiana on October 20, 1890. Minton graduated from the school of law at Indiana University, and then undertook graduate law work at Yale Law School. After practicing law in private practice, Minton was appointed a public counselor in Indiana in 1933. A year later, the Democrat won election to the Senate as an ardent New Dealer. He served one term in the Senate. After losing his re-election bid in 1940, FDR named Minton as an advisor on military branch coordination. Later in 1941, Minton was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In 1949, Minton was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Harry S Truman, a former colleague of Minton's in the Senate. Minton strongly believed in a limited exercise of judicial power when evaluating the constitutionality of governmental action. This was likely a consequence of Minton's view that the Court, before its "switch" in 1937, had too broadly conceived its role. Senator Minton was a supporter of FDR's court-packing plan of 1937. Minton joined the plurality's decision in Dennis v. United States (1951), which upheld convictions of several Communists charged with violation of the Smith Act (which prohibited anyone from willfully advocating or teaching the duty to overthrow any government of the US). He also joined a majority of the Court in upholding other domestic security laws during the Second Red Scare of the early 1950s. Minton was a member of the Court that decided Brown v. Board of Education, and was apparently in favor of declaring unconstitutional "separate but equal" in the field of education in late 1952, when the Court remained quite divided on the issue in Brown. Minton's reluctance to invalidate governmental actions is exemplified by his dissent in the Steel Seizure case, which held Harry Truman's seizure of the steel mills to avert a strike violated separation of powers.

Due to illness, he retired from the Court on October 15, 1956. He died on April 9, 1965.