Vanderbilt Law Review


Samuel R. Olken

First Page



In the annals of Supreme Court history, George Sutherland occupies a curious place. Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1921 to 1938, the Utah native has long been identified as one of the infamous "Four Horsemen," known largely for his role as a judicial conservative instrumental in the Court's invalidation of significant aspects of the New Deal. Yet Sutherland was also the author of several influential opinions involving matters as diverse as civil rights, freedom of expression, and others that recognized the broad authority of the federal government in the realm of foreign and military affairs. A proponent of limited government intervention into private economic activities, he also advocated the public interest in the exercise of reasonable controls of private land use. Moreover, Sutherland did not hesitate to support workers' compensation and other exercises of governmental authority intended to promote the public welfare. Accordingly, Justice Sutherland might appear to the modern observer as somewhat of a judicial enigma, who, except for an occasional progressive lapse, more often than not, imbued his analysis reference in print to Sutherland and his fellow bloc of dissenters on the Hughes Court.