Bringing Nuremberg Home: Justice Jackson's Path Back to Buffalo, October 4, 1946

30 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012 Last revised: 3 Oct 2012

See all articles by John Q. Barrett

John Q. Barrett

St. John's University School of Law; Robert H. Jackson Center


As a young man early in the 20th century, Robert H. Jackson lived and practiced law in Buffalo, New York, and developed strong ties to that leading United States city, its people, its legal profession and its University.

By the mid-1940s, Jackson’s life path reached high levels in U.S. government, including acclaimed service as Solicitor General, as Attorney General, and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In spring 1945 as Hitler’s Germany was being defeated militarily, President Truman appointed Justice Jackson to represent the U.S. in what became the international prosecution and adjudication, in Nuremberg, of the principal Nazi war criminals. During Jackson’s 1945-46 service as U.S. chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, he was away from the U.S. and missed an entire Supreme Court term.

In fall 1946, Justice Jackson returned from Nuremberg to the Supreme Court by way of Buffalo. At the invitation of the University of Buffalo (UB) as it celebrated its centennial, Jackson accepted an honorary degree, the first it had ever awarded. Jackson then delivered, at the centennial’s closing convocation, an address explicating his just-completed work at Nuremberg. Jackson described the Nuremberg trial as a significant step in global education and international law development and he discussed its connection to national systems of constitutional law. Although Jackson’s 1946 UB address was widely published and discussed in its era, it was not published in a law journal and, over the years, it was generally forgotten.

On October 4, 2011, SUNY Buffalo Law School devoted its prominent annual James McCormick Mitchell Lecture to a program commemorating Justice Jackson’s 1946 UB centennial address. This Essay, based on a Mitchell Lecture that was part of that 65th anniversary program, traces Jackson’s path, including his law practice and friendships in Buffalo and his sojourns from there to Washington to Nuremberg and, in October 1946, back to Buffalo. The Essay describes UB’s spring 1946 offer to Jackson of an honorary degree; his initial acceptance; his subsequent offer to withdraw after he created, in June 1946, public controversy about Supreme Court justice ethics; UB’s reaffirmation of its decision to honor Jackson; his speech writing as he waited for the Nuremberg judgment; his last-minute travel from Nuremberg to Buffalo; and the 1946 UB centennial events that culminated in his significant address.

This Essay and other components growing out of SUNY Buffalo’s 2011 Mitchell Lecture program — an introductory Essay by Professors Alfred S. Konefsky and Tara J. Melish; Justice Robert H. Jackson’s 1946 centennial address; and Mitchell Lectures by Professors Eric L. Muller and Mary L. Dudziak — are published in Volume 60 of the Buffalo Law Review (in print and online). The Konefsky & Melish, Muller, and Dudziak essays also are posted on SSRN.

Keywords: Justice Jackson, Robert H. Jackson, Nuremberg, International Military Tribunal, IMT, University of Buffalo, Charles B. Sears, Samuel P. Capen

Suggested Citation

Barrett, John Q., Bringing Nuremberg Home: Justice Jackson's Path Back to Buffalo, October 4, 1946. 60 Buffalo Law Review 295-321 (April 2012); St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-0018. Available at SSRN:

John Q. Barrett (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

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Robert H. Jackson Center

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