U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) wrote in the concurring opinion in Brown v. Allen (1953):
“There is no doubt that if there were a super-Supreme Court, a substantial proportion of our reversals of state courts would also be reversed. We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”
The famous line is often slightly changed, usually with “infallible” replaced with “right” or “supreme.” “As has often been remarked, the Supreme Court is not final because it is right; it is right because it is final” was cited in a 2003 book about the court. “The Supreme Court is not final because it is supreme. It is supreme because it is final” was cited in 2004.
Wikipedia: Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest federal court of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution in 1789, it has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and over state court cases involving issues of federal law, plus original jurisdiction over a small range of cases. In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.
The Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have life tenure unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed).
Wikipedia: Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson (February 13, 1892 – October 9, 1954) was United States Solicitor General (1938-1940), United States Attorney General (1940–1941) and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941–1954). He is the only person in United States history to have held all three of those offices. He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. A “county-seat lawyer”, he remains the last Supreme Court justice appointed who did not graduate from any law school (though Justice Stanley Reed who served from 1938 to 1957 was the last such justice to serve on the court), although he did attend Albany Law School in Albany, New York for one year. He is remembered for his famous advice that “any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances” and for his aphorism describing the Supreme Court, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” Many lawyers revere Justice Jackson as one of the best writers on the court, and one of the most committed to due process protections from overreaching federal agencies.
American Legal Quotations
By Fred R. Shapiro
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
There is no doubt that if there were a super-Supreme Court, a substantial proportion of our reversals of state courts would also be reversed. We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.
Robert H. Jackson, Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 540 (1953) (concurring)
The Supreme Court and Election Law:
Judging Equality from Baker v. Carr to Bush v. Gore
By Richard Hasen
New York, NY: New York University Press
As has often been remarked, the Supreme Court is not final because it is right; it is right because it is final.
Fri Dec-31-04 12:51 AM
7. Something I learned in law school…
The Supreme Court is not final because it is supreme. It is supreme because it is final.
The U.S. Constitution A to Z, Second Edition
Robert L. Maddex
Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: October 22, 2013
“‘Whoever hath an absolute authority to interpret any written or spoken law,’” wrote Felix Frankfurter (1882–1965) in Mr. Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court (1965), quoting John Chipman Gray, “‘it is he who is truly the lawgiver to all intents and purposes, and not the person who first wrote or spoke them.’” That the Supreme Court is supreme because it is final and not final because it is supreme is only partly true, because the Court’s decisions can be changed in some instances by Congress or by constitutional amendment. But to a great extent, as illustrated by the unique case Bush v. Gore (2000)—in which the Court’s decision virtually determined the outcome of a presidential election—the Supreme Court often does have the final word on the meaning and constitutionality of the laws of the United States.
@aparatbar @vakeel_saheba it’s actually- “Supreme Court is not final because it’s supreme, it’s supreme because it’s final’
2:03 AM - 27 Feb 2013
What is your recourse, Glenn? What if the Supreme Court ruled the other way in McDonald v. Chicago? There would be nothing you could use to overturn that because as they say, the Supreme Court isn’t final because it’s supreme, it’s supreme because it is final.
April 18, 2013 at 4:10pm
… The Supreme Court isn’t final because it’s right, it’s right because it’s final.
2:25 PM - 30 Apr 2015
Will we ever hold our courts accountable for judicial activism?
By J. Pepper Bryars
on June 30, 2015 at 4:25 PM, updated June 30, 2015 at 4:44 PM
There’s an old saying about the Supreme Court: it isn’t final because it’s supreme; it’s supreme because it’s final. That sounds clever, but let’s review some of the court’s more memorable decisions from the modern era to see how “final” they actually were, at least in terms of ending the debate.
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Tuesday, June 30, 2015 • Permalink