Why Do Supreme Court Justices Succeed or Fail? Harry Blackmun as an Example

27 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2009

See all articles by Justin R. La Mort

Justin R. La Mort

Brooklyn Law School; Mobilization for Justice

Lawrence S. Wrightsman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 17, 2005


At present, 108 Justices have served on the United States Supreme Court. Some have clearly been successes as judges, while a few have clearly not, and a large number are cast into that middle, “satisfactory” or “average,” category. The purpose of this paper is to propose, examine, and evaluate specific factors as determinants of judicial success, and then to consider Justice Harry Blackmun’s place on a continuum of successes and failures.

The paper is divided into three sections. First, it reviews several ideal qualities and examines the results of several surveys of experts, which classify the Justices into categories based on their relative degree of success. Second, this article considers whether success can be predicted, and in answering this question offers several case histories illustrating examples of when judicial success could not be predicted.

Finally, because the purpose of this symposium is to commemorate the release of Justice Blackmun’s papers, this article evaluates Justice Blackmun on the success–failure continuum. Because of his shift in position during his 24 years on the Court, Justice Blackmun is especially of interest. This article further analyzes and proposes explanations for his shift.

Keywords: Forensic Psychology, Blackmun, Judicial Success, Judicial Shifting, Psychology of the U.S. Supreme Court

JEL Classification: K49

Suggested Citation

La Mort, Justin R. and La Mort, Justin R. and Wrightsman, Lawrence S., Why Do Supreme Court Justices Succeed or Fail? Harry Blackmun as an Example (October 17, 2005). Missouri Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 4, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1525054

Justin R. La Mort (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

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Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

Mobilization for Justice ( email )

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New York, NY 10038
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Lawrence S. Wrightsman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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