Vanderbilt Law Review

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Samuel Chase is not exactly unknown. Indeed, as the only U.S. Supreme Court Justice to be impeached, he achieved a sort of instant fame, or instant infamy. He is, I think, fairly characterized as a "neglected Justice," however, because, in our exclusive focus on his impeachment, we tend to forget that he did possess considerable intelligence, virtue, legal ability, and energy that make him worth our study. His life is also something of an object lesson in how a judge's self-destructive tendencies can harm his reputation. As Richard Peters, his colleague on the Pennsylvania Circuit Court remarked, Chase had a singular instinct for tumult and appeared to have sought controversy whenever he could. "I never sat with him without pain," Peters remembered, "as he was forever getting into some intemperate and unnecessary squabble."' Chase is remembered as a rabid Federalist partisan and a vehemently anti-Jeffersonian judge.

I am not aware of any other Supreme Court Justice who apparently deprived his Court of a full complement of required personnel because he went out on the political hustings to give speeches in support of a presidential candidate he favored (John Adams) and against one he feared (Thomas Jefferson). During the 1800 election campaign, Chase made himself an easy target for Jeffersonian newspapers when he appeared to sympathize zealously with the prosecution of Jeffersonian editors and writers. Indeed, more than one historian has suggested that in the trial of one of these writers, the notorious John Thompson Callender, Chase actively sought to prevent "all creatures called democrats" from serving on the jury. This assertion, however, is dubious.

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