As a justice, Reed was a strong supporter of expanded federal authority in New Deal and subsequent cases, but he usually cast conservative votes in civil liberties cases.
Reed grew up in Maysville, Kentucky, the only child of an upper-middle-class family. He graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College and received a second bachelor’s degree from Yale. He attended law school at both the University of Virginia and Columbia but did not receive a degree. He practiced law in Maysville with large tobacco cooperatives as his major clients. A Democrat, he was active in Kentucky politics in the 1910-1928 period, serving two terms in the state legislature. He left Kentucky in 1929 to serve as general counsel to the Federal Farm Board and later to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him solicitor general in 1935, and Reed argued many important New Deal cases before the Supreme Court during the next three years. He was Roosevelt’s second appointee to the Court in 1938, retiring nineteen years later. He died in 1980 at age ninety-five, the longest lived of all the Supreme Court justices.
Stanley F. Reed
An economic liberal, Reed upheld New Deal
Reed was relatively conservative in freedom of expression cases. Although he gave some support to the preferred freedoms doctrine in freedom of press cases, he did not think free speech claims should override considerations of law and order. He opposed virtually all free speech claims advanced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Reed’s views matched the temper of the Cold War era; he almost always voted to uphold restrictions (for example, denial of passports or government jobs) on those suspected of being communists. Although he voted to overturn convictions obtained by outrageous police behavior, Reed generally opposed expanded claims of defendants’ rights. He wrote the Court’s opinion in Adamson v. California
Given his Kentucky origins, Reed was comfortable with racial segregation, but he realized that times were changing. Because he was a southerner, he was assigned the opinion in Smith v. Allwright
Despite nineteen years on the Court, Reed was not a memorable justice. He showed little intellectual leadership in any area of the law. His opinions seldom relied on rigorous logic and lacked inspiring rhetoric. He had no clear philosophy of constitutional interpretation, and his opinions turned on facts more often than on doctrines.
Belknap, Michal R. The Vinson Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2004. Fassett, John D. New Deal Justice: The Life of Stanley Reed of Kentucky. New York: Vantage Press, 1994. O’Brien, F. William. Justice Reed and the First Amendment: The Religion Clauses. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1958. Parrish, Michael E. The Hughes Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2002. Renstrom., Peter G. The Stone Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2001. Urofsky, Melvin I. The Warren Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2001.
Adamson v. California
Brown v. Board of Education
Preferred freedoms doctrine
Smith v. Allwright
Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer