Potter Stewart

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Potter Stewart was the person who made some of the most important changes to the U.S. legal system. He is best known for his work on criminal justice reform and the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. His father was a well-known lawyer and politician, so it made sense that his son would choose to do the same. He was a smart student who went to Yale Law School and worked as the editor of the “Yale Law Journal.” After being in the Navy during World War II, he started his own law firm. In 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower put him on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and chose him to replace a Supreme Court judge who was leaving. He turned out to be a smart and practical lawyer who thought in a practical way. He was a well-known lawyer who had a big impact on several important court decisions. During the Nixon administration, he was thought to be the most likely candidate to become Chief Justice, but Stewart didn’t want that job. He was best known for saying, “I know it when I see it,” which was his way of saying that he knew something was wrong when he saw it. Another well-known quote of his is about the death penalty: “These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being hit by lightning is cruel and unusual.”

Early years and childhood

Potter James Garfield Stewart and Harriet Loomis Potter gave birth to Stewart. His father was a famous Republican who was a lawyer and had been the mayor of Cincinnati.
He went to and graduated from Hotchkiss School in 1933.

He went to Yale University, where he became the head of the newspaper “Yale Daily News.”
In 1941, he got his law degree from Yale Law School. He was an editor for the “Yale Law Journal” and a member of the Phi Delta Phi group.

Potter Stewart’s Career

After he graduated, he went to work for a company on Wall Street, but he left to join the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. He became a lieutenant in junior grade and was given three battle stars for his work on oil tankers overseas.

After his time in the navy, he worked as a private lawyer at Dinsmore & Shohl, a large law firm in Cincinnati.
During the early 1950s, he was chosen twice for the Cincinnati City Council.

When a spot opened up on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1954, he was chosen to fill it.
In 1959, when Supreme Court Justice Harold Hitz Burton was about to retire, President Dwight Eisenhower chose Stewart to replace him.

At the time he joined, the Supreme Court was made up of liberals and conservatives, who had different ideas. He didn’t want to be put in either group and stayed a strong moderate with pragmatic views.
One of his first cases in the Supreme Court was Irvin v. Dowd. It had to do with a murderer who had been sentenced but had gotten away. Stewart was an important “swing vote” in the case.

Stewart was the only justice who didn’t agree with the ruling in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case, which said that it was against the Constitution to encourage people to say a school prayer.

In the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which had a big effect on law enforcement in the United States, he was one of three judges who didn’t agree with the decision. The other two were John Harlan and Byron White. He said that the court’s decision gave defendants too much protection and hurt the police’s ability to enforce the law.

In the case In re Gault (1967), which gave juveniles accused of crimes the same legal rights as adults in Miranda v. Arizona, he was the only judge who didn’t agree (1966).

In Katz v. the United States, he wrote the majority opinion (1967). He said that the Fourth Amendment “protects people, not places,” and he applied the protections of the Fourth Amendment to electronic surveillance.

Stewart said during the Furman v. Georgia

(1972) case that bias and ambiguity could be seen when the death penalty was given. In the end, the Supreme Court said that there should be some consistency in how the death penalty is used.

In 1976, he added Runyon v. McCrary, which said that schools shouldn’t treat students differently because of their race, to the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

In the 1977 case, Whalen v. Row, New York laws said that all prescriptions for Schedule II drugs had to be reported and kept in records of. He agreed with the majority that the ruling did not go against a person’s right to privacy under the Constitution.

In 1981, he gave up his job on the Court. After he retired, he was in a special TV series about the United States Constitution.

Works of note

As an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, he was mostly known for being a moderate. He was very important in a number of the Court’s most important decisions and made important contributions to the criminal justice and civil rights cases.

Personal History and Legacies

In 1943, he got married to Mary Ann Bertles. There were three kids in the family. He also had many grandchildren and loved them all very much.
In 1985, he had a stroke that killed him.

Estimated Net worth

Potter is on the list of the most popular and wealthiest Supreme Court Justice. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Potter Stewart is worth about $1.5 million.


He was used as the main source for Bob Woodward’s nonfiction book “The Brethren.”