Pierce Butler

Media Items
Personal Information
Saturday, March 17, 1866
Thursday, November 16, 1939
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Thursday, December 21, 1922
Sworn In 
Tuesday, January 2, 1923
Left Office 
Thursday, November 16, 1939
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
16 years, 10 months, 14 days
Pierce Butler
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Nicholas R. Brewer)

Pierce Butler had the good fortune to be born on St. Patrick's Day. The luck of the Irish blessed him with an appointment to the Supreme Court in 1922 after establishing a reputation as a lawyer, both in public office and in private practice, in his home state of Minnesota. Butler was Chief Justice Taft's top choice for the number 6 position on the Taft team. Taft wanted to solidify the conservative portion of the bench. The Chief appealed to the symbolic value of a Butler appointment. Butler was a Catholic at a time when there were no other Catholic justices.

Butler's confirmation raised the hackles of some liberal Senators and generated opposition from academic circles, especially from the University of Minnesota where Butler served as regent. But in the end, only eight senators voted against him.

Butler proved to be every bit the conservative on the High Court. He generally preferred freedom to equality and he opted for order rather than freedom in the cases that came before him during his 16 years on the bench. There were exceptions. He took a broad view of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, for example.

Butler was one of the conservative "Four Horsemen" during the New Deal. Together with, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Van Devanter, Butler opposed every piece of New Deal legislation that came before him.

Clerk Law School Terms Clerked
John F. Cotter Catholic 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927

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Cite this Page
Pierce Butler. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/pierce_butler/>.
Pierce Butler, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/pierce_butler/ (last visited August 29, 2015).
"Pierce Butler," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 29, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/pierce_butler/.