A quick look at U.S. Supreme Court Justices from Indiana

With the announcement that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, speculation is mounting that Seventh Circuit Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is on a short list of potential replacements. Because Barrett lives in Indiana and teaches law at the University of Notre Dame, this speculation is especially ramped up in the Hoosier state. This begs the questions: How many other Supreme Court justices hailed from Indiana? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

In the case of a U.S. Representative or Senator, it’s pretty easy to determine a home state: Just look at where they were elected from. Similarly, since most Presidents and Vice Presidents have previously held elective offices, you look to the state where they were previously on the ballot. Supreme Court justices, on the other hand, don’t typically have a history of being on the ballot, so an alternative method is needed to determine a home state.

Here we have four options: 1) State of birth; 2) state where formative years were spent; 3) state where a significant part of adult life was spent; and 4) state where the justice was appointed from (note: because most Supreme Court justices come from lower courts, this is the standard the Court itself uses, and it generally reflects which court they come from and/or which state within the district or circuit the justice lived while serving there).

Using these criteria, there have been four Supreme Court justices that have some connection to Indiana: Two were born here, three grew up here, three spent part of their adult lives here, and one was appointed from here. If Barrett (who is originally from Louisiana) does become the next justice, she would meet criterion three for having attended law school at Notre Dame and later teaching there, and on criterion four the Supreme Court would likely list her as being appointed from Indiana because of her current position on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which is based in Chicago, but covers the federal courts in Indiana, where she resides).

Here’s a look at the four justices Indiana has some claim to:

Willis Van Devanter

Served Born here? Grew up here? Worked here as adult? Appointed from here?
1911-1937 Yes (Marion) Yes (Marion) Yes (Marion) No (WY)
Van Devanter was born and raised in Marion, and after getting a law degree in Cincinnati practiced law in Marion for three years; he then moved to the Wyoming Territory, where he served as the city attorney for Cheyenne, a member of the territorial legislator, and—at only age 30—the chief justice of the territorial court; after Wyoming became a state, he was named Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court—but gave it up after only four days and went back into private practice; in 1897 he moved to Washington, DC, to become Assistant Attorney General, and was named to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903, where he served until William Taft named him to the Supreme Court in 1911; he became the first Supreme Court justice to move to “senior status” after the system was established in 1937

Wiley Blount Rutledge

Served Born here? Grew up here? Worked here as adult? Appointed from here?
1943-1949 No No Yes (Bloomington) No (IA)
Rutledge was born in Kentucky, and had a transient childhood; after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he moved to Indiana to teach high school, and took law school classes part time at Indiana University; his time living in Indiana was brief, and he didn’t finish his law school education until he moved to Colorado and earned his law degree from the University of Colorado; after a few years of private practice, he became a law school professor at the University of Colorado, and then Washington University in St. Louis; after being named Dean of that latter law school, he became Dean of the University of Iowa’s law school; in that role, he was a very vocal supporter of Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan; this support earned him enough goodwill that Roosevelt named him to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1939 and to the Supreme Court in 1943

Sherman Minton

Served Born here? Grew up here? Worked here as adult? Appointed from here?
1949-1956 Yes (Georgetown) Yes (Georgetown) Yes (New Albany) Yes
Sherman served as a U.S. Senator (D-IN) from 1935 until 1941, and the last four years was the Senate Majority Whip; after he lost re-election in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt named him to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1941, where he served until Harry Truman (with whom he served in the Senate) named him to the Supreme Court in 1949; Minton is the last Supreme Court justice who had prior experience in Congress; while he was considered a strident New Deal liberal in the Senate, he was later seen as one of the more conservative Supreme Court justices; he is the only Supreme Court justice to spend his entire life as a Hoosier resident

John G. Roberts

Served Born here? Grew up here? Worked here as adult? Appointed from here?
2005-present No (NY) Yes (Long Beach) No (DC) No (MD)
The only Hoosier to ever serve as Chief Justice, Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, and moved to Long Beach, Indiana, in fourth grade; after growing up in Indiana, he attended Harvard for both his undergraduate and law school education; after graduating law school, he clerked for Justice William Rhenquist and stayed in the Washington, DC, area; he held positions in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and worked in private practice before and after the Bush administration positions; Bush nominated him to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1992, but the nomination failed for a lack of a vote; George W. Bush similarly nominated him to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001, but it also failed for a lack of a vote; the younger Bush nominated Roberts to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for a third time in 2003, when he was finally confirmed by the Senate; he served on that court until 2005 when he was appointed to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he still serves today

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