Melville W. Fuller

Media Items
Personal Information
Monday, February 11, 1833
Monday, July 4, 1910
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Chief Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Friday, July 20, 1888
Sworn In 
Monday, October 8, 1888
Left Office 
Monday, July 4, 1910
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
21 years, 8 months, 27 days
Melville W. Fuller
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Albert Rosenthal)

Melville W. Fuller was born and raised in Maine. He attended Bowdoin College. He read law after graduation and passed the bar following a six-month stint at Harvard Law School. Though Fuller was headed for a promising career in Maine, he elected to move west. He settled in Chicago where he combined politics and law.

Fuller managed Stephen Douglas's presidential campaign against Abraham Lincoln in 1860; and, he later served in the Illinois House of Representatives for two years. Fuller also maintained a thriving legal practice, specializing in real estate problems.

President Grover Cleveland offered Fuller appointment as solicitor general, which Fuller declined. Cleveland then selected Fuller for the chief justice position. Senate confirmation took three months. There were objections about Fuller's sympathies for big corporations and Northern Republicans questioned his loyalty to the Union. In the end, however, Fuller was approved.

Fuller presided over a Court that was barraged by constant criticism. In fact, only the Warren Court was the subject of more abuse. Both Courts actively injected their value preferences into the legislative arena.

Fuller was an amiable leader who inaugurated the custom that each justice greet and shake hands with every other justice prior to the conference. The custom continues to this day.

Clerk Law Schoolsort icon Terms Clerked
T. H. Fitnam
Clarence M. York 1889, 1893, 1894, 1895
James S. Harlan admitted to bar, 1886
Stephen Albion Day admitted to bar, 1907

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Melville W. Fuller. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 August 2015. <>.
Melville W. Fuller, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 28, 2015).
"Melville W. Fuller," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 28, 2015,