Byron White

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We're the only branch of government that explains itself in writing every time it makes a decision.

Byron Raymond White (June 8, 1917April 15, 2002) won fame both as a football running back and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed to the court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, he served until his retirement in 1993.

Sourced[edit]

  • As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.
    • Dissenting from the decision of the US Supreme Court in Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 at 222 (1973); also applied to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
  • It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect.
  • We're the only branch of government that explains itself in writing every time it makes a decision.
    • Reported by Evan Thomas in Time Magazine, Oct. 08, 1984, in response to the assertion that the Supreme Court is the most secretive branch in terms of carrying out its deliberations.
  • The issue presented is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy, and hence invalidates the laws of the many States that still make such conduct illegal, and have done so for a very long time…. Respondent would have us announce, as the Court of Appeals did, a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy. This we are quite unwilling to do.
  • The Court is most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law having little or no cognizable roots in the language or design of the Constitution…. There should be, therefore, great resistance to … redefining the category of rights deemed to be fundamental. Otherwise, the Judiciary necessarily takes to itself further authority to govern the country without express constitutional authority.
  • While the collateral consequences of drugs such as cocaine are indisputably severe, they are not unlike those which flow from the misuse of other, legal, substances.

About White[edit]

  • I cannot think of a single answer that I made in the years that I argued before the Court while Justice White sat on it that seemed to satisfy him. While I won a number of cases that I argued before him, and he voted for my side in most of them, I never had the sense that anything I said pleased him. White, a former All-American running back (whose much-repeated college nickname, Whizzer, was one that appalled him), was no fan of press claims for broad First Amendment protection. He invariably asked questions that were both pointed and powerful.
    • Floyd Abrams, Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment, (Viking Press, 2005), p. 71.
  • The same qualities that made him a memorable jurist would make him a lightning rod for fierce opposition if he were named to the Supreme Court now.
    • USA Today, April 17, 2002, quoted in US Senate Republican Policy Committee article, 25 April 2002, "The Left's Iron-Clad Litmus Test on Abortion: Justice White Could Not Be Confirmed Today".

External links[edit]

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