Fuller Court

The Fuller Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1888 to 1910, when Melville Fuller served as the eighth Chief Justice of the United States. Fuller succeeded Morrison R. Waite as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and Fuller served as Chief Justice until his death, at which point Associate Justice Edward Douglass White was nominated and confirmed as Fuller's replacement.

Supreme Court of the United States
Fuller Court
October 10, 1888 – July 4, 1910
(21 years, 267 days)
SeatOld Senate Chamber
Washington, D.C.
No. of positions9
Fuller Court decisions

During the era of the Fuller Court, the Judiciary Act of 1891 was passed, easing the burden of the Supreme Court by creating the United States courts of appeals. The Fuller Court was the first of three consecutive conservative courts, and established the Lochner era.[1]


The Fuller court began in October 1888, when the Senate confirmed President Grover Cleveland's nomination of Melville Fuller as the successor to Chief Justice Waite. On Fuller's accession to the office, the Fuller Court consisted of associate justices: Samuel Freeman Miller, Stephen Johnson Field, Joseph P. Bradley, John Marshall Harlan, Stanley Matthews, Horace Gray, Samuel Blatchford, and Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II  who had taken office earlier that year.

Matthews, Miller, and Bradley all died between 1889 and 1892, and President Benjamin Harrison appointed David Josiah Brewer, Henry Billings Brown, and George Shiras, Jr. to replace them. Lamar and Blatchford both died in 1893, and President Harrison appointed Howell Edmunds Jackson while President Cleveland appointed Edward Douglass White as their replacements. White was Cleveland's third nominee to the seat that had been held by Blatchford, following the Senate's rejections of William B. Hornblower and Wheeler Hazard Peckham. Jackson died in 1895, and was replaced by another Cleveland appointee, Rufus Wheeler Peckham, brother of Wheeler Peckham.

Field retired in 1897, and was replaced by Attorney General Joseph McKenna, the lone appointment made by William McKinley. Gray died in 1902 and Shiras retired in 1903; President Theodore Roosevelt successfully nominated Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and William R. Day to replace them. Brown retired in 1906, and Roosevelt appointed William Henry Moody to the court. Peckham died in 1909 and was succeeded by Horace Harmon Lurton, an appointee of President William Howard Taft.

After Fuller's death, Fuller was replaced as Chief Justice by Associate Justice Edward Douglass White, who was elevated by President Taft. Between the death of Fuller and the elevation of White, Charles Evans Hughes joined the court as the successor to David Josiah Brewer, who died in 1910.


President key:        Lincoln appointee         Grant appointee         Hayes appointee         Garfield appointee         Arthur appointee         Cleveland appointee         B. Harrison appointee         McKinley appointee         T. Roosevelt appointee         Taft appointee

Rulings of the Court

Major rulings of the Fuller Court include:

Judicial philosophy

In contrast with the Waite Court,[2] the Fuller Court used the Due Process Clause to strike down several economic regulations in defense of a laissez faire economy.[1][3] The court struck down several federal regulatory laws and sought to maintain the autonomy of the states, but it also struck down state laws that it saw as impediments to interstate commerce.[4] The Fuller Court ruled more favorably to the government in other cases, most notably Plessy, and granted the government wide latitude in administering colonial territories.[2] The court also declined to extend due process protections into the sphere of criminal procedure.[4] Like many other courts prior to 1941, the Fuller Court had strong consensual norms, which helped to keep the number of dissents to a minimum.[5] No clear ideological blocs emerged during Fuller's tenure,[5] but Justices Holmes, Day, Gray, and Brown tended to favor upholding laws, and Justices Shiras, Harlan, White, and Peckham were the most willing to overrule state legislatures.[6] Justice Harlan was notable for his many dissents, earning him the moniker of the "Great Dissenter."[5] The ideological homogeneity was a product of an era in which Republican presidents dominated, and the lone Democratic president (Cleveland) shared the pro-business views of most Republicans.[7] Fuller himself was regarded as a talented administrator generally in agreement with the court's philosophy, but not a dominant intellectual force.[8]


  1. Galloway, Jr., Russell (1 January 1985). "The Taft Court (1921–29)". Santa Clara Law Review. 25 (1): 1–2. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  2. Currie, David P. (1985). "The Constitution in the Supreme Court: The Protection of Economic Interests, 1889–1910". University of Chicago Law Review. 52: 325–326. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  3. Shoemaker, Rebecca (2004). The White Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9781576079737. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  4. Finkelman, Paul (15 January 2014). The Supreme Court: Controversies, Cases, and Characters from John Jay to John Roberts [4 Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 423–424. ISBN 9781610693950. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  5. Ely, James W. (2003). The Fuller Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781576077146. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  6. Pratt, Walter F. "Rhetorical Styles on the Fuller Court". The American Journal of Legal History. 24: 193–195. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  7. Ely, 29–30
  8. Ely, 31

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry Julian (2008). Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742558953.
  • Beth, Loren P. (2015). John Marshall Harlan: The Last Whig Justice. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813149851.
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.
  • Ely, Jr., James W. (2012). The Chief Justiceship of Melville W. Fuller, 1888-1910. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781611171716.
  • Ely, Jr., James W. (2003). The Fuller Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576077146.
  • Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L., eds. (1995). The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7910-1377-9.
  • Goldstone, Lawrence (2011). Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903. Walker Books. ISBN 978-0802717924.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W.; Grossman, Joel B., eds. (2005). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195176612.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W., eds. (2009). The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195379396.
  • Hall, Timothy L. (2001). Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438108179.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles; Hoffer, WilliamJames Hull; Hull, N. E. H. (2018). The Supreme Court: An Essential History (2nd ed.). University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-2681-6.
  • Hoffer, WilliamJames Hull (2012). Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0700618460.
  • Howard, John R. (1999). The Shifting Wind: The Supreme Court and Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780791440896.
  • Irons, Peter (2006). A People's History of the Supreme Court: The Men and Women Whose Cases and Decisions Have Shaped Our Constitution (Revised ed.). Penguin. ISBN 9781101503133.
  • Kens, Paul (1998). Lochner v. New York Economic Regulation on Trial. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-0919-2.
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 978-0-87187-554-9.
  • Papke, David Ray (1999). The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-0953-6.
  • Schwarz, Bernard (1995). A History of the Supreme Court. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195093872.
  • Sparrow, Bartholomew H. (2006). The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1481-3.
  • Tomlins, Christopher, ed. (2005). The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618329694.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Garland Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8153-1176-8.
  • White, Richard (2017). The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age: 1865–1896. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190619060.
  • Yarbrough, Tinsley E. (1995). Judicial Enigma: the First Justice Harlan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195074642.
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