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Can You Name the Presidents Who Argued a Case Before the US Supreme Court?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 9, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

Eugene Volokh, law professor/blogger, asked readers of his heavily-read blog, The Volokh Conpiracy, how many presidents had argued before the US Supreme Court, either before or after being President. Here’s what they came up with:

1. John Quincy Adams in the famous case of US v. Amistad, 40 US 518 (1841), involving slaves aboard a ship that landed in a US port. You may have seen the movie.

2. Abraham Lincoln in Lewis v. Lewis, 48 US 776 (1849). Lincoln, who despite his PR was one of the leading trial lawyers in Illinois, argued this case a few days after his term in the US House of Representatives expired.

3. Richard Nixon in Time, Inc. v. Hill, 385 US 374 (1967).

4. James A. Garfield in Ex Parte Milligan, 71 US 2 (1866), a leading case in US Constitutional Law that held that it was unconstitutional to try a citizen by a military tribunal when a civilian court was available.

5. William Howard Taft, who as Solicitor General between 1890 and 1892, would have had the opportunity to personally argue many cases before the Supremes in behalf of the government. He was also Chief Justice (the only US President to hold both offices)after his presidency, serving until his death in 1930.

Other names were mentioned by Volokh’s readers, but without citing a case or other circumstance to support the claim. I checked biographies of those presidents and could find no mention of argument before the high court. So there may be others. If any reader knows of a president who argued before the US Supreme Court, please let me know.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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