Editorial: The justices go vocal (8-23-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 23, 1941)


Those who like to deny the existence of an emergency for this country should take note of the fact that three justices of the United States Supreme Court – whose members in ordinary times confine their opinions to the lawsuits at hand – have recently taken to the rostrum to urge support of Roosevelt defense policies.

One of the three Justice Roberts, is a pre-Roosevelt appointee to the bench, and the author of several anti-New Deal decisions. Said Justice Roberts, at a New York rally over which he presided:

We realize that either by the sword or by economic encirclement, it is proposed to take away all our precious liberties… Day by day the threat of aggression becomes sharper… Each of us should realize that now, not tomorrow, he must bend every effort for preparedness, if we, as a nation, are to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.

Justice Reed, at Bridgeport, Conn., spoke of the “particularly unanimous” decision to “protect ourselves by aiding all who war against the aggressors” and commented:

Each American may be an embryonic Napoleon, but only a handful have available the information necessary for even military geniuses to map the grand strategy. For that we must rely upon the President and his staff.

And Justice Murphy, before the Knights of Columbus at Atlantic City, struck at critics of aid to Russia by warning that Nazism:

…is by far the greater menace to free nations and free institutions.

In these grave times, it seems to us proper and desirable that members of the Supreme Court should doff their robes from time to time and contribute thus to a national unity which is still dangerously imperfect.

A word from the retired Chief Justice, Mr. Hughes, would be particularly welcome.