Abe Fortas

Media Items
Personal Information
Born 
Sunday, June 19, 1910
Died 
Monday, April 5, 1982
Childhood Location 
Tennessee
Childhood Surroundings 
Tennessee
Religion 
Jewish
Ethnicity 
English
Father 
William Fortas
Father's Occupation 
Cabinetmaker
Mother 
Ray Berson
Family Status 
Lower-middle
Position 
Associate Justice
Seat 
3
Nominated By 
Johnson, L.
Commissioned on 
Wednesday, August 11, 1965
Sworn In 
Monday, October 4, 1965
Left Office 
Wednesday, May 14, 1969
Reason For Leaving 
Resigned
Length of Service 
3 years, 7 months, 10 days
Home 
Tennessee
Abe Fortas
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: George Agusta)
Biography 

Abe Fortas was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of an immigrant cabinetmaker. After graduating from Southwestern University in Memphis, Fortas attended Yale Law School. He joined the faculty there after graduation, but was quickly lured to the New Deal lawyers in Washington.

Fortas provided behind-the-scenes advice to Democratic politicians for years prior to his appointment to the Court in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. Fortas had represented Johnson when Johnson's eighty-four-vote victory in the 1948 Texas Democratic primary was challenged. During his years of private practice in Washington, Fortas found time to defend victims of McCarthyism and litigate important cases, including Gideon v. Wainwright which established the right of indigents to counsel in state criminal cases. In 1969, Life magazine revealed that Fortas had accepted and then returned a fee of $20,000 from a charitable foundation controlled by the family of an indicted stock manipulator. Fortas resigned from the bench in 1969 but denied any wrongdoing.

Clerkships 
Clerk Law School Terms Clerked
Martha A. Field Chicago (1968) 1968
Walter B. Slocombe Harvard (1968) 1968
H. David Rosenbloom Harvard (1966) 1967
Peter L. Zimroth Yale (1966) 1967
John Griffiths Yale 1965
Daniel P. Levitt 1965

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Cite this Page
Abe Fortas. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/abe_fortas>.
Abe Fortas, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/abe_fortas (last visited April 19, 2014).
"Abe Fortas," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/justices/abe_fortas.