The following is a fact-check of the May 16, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) | Justices Marshall, Frankfurter, Jackson, and Rehnquist had limited/no judicial experience HALF TRUE (but it’s complicated)

This was a tricky one. Because there are more than one Justices with the last names Marshall and Jackson, which one Sen. Schumer intended changes the conclusion.

First off, it is correct that for the most part Justices Frankfurter and Rehnquist had no judicial experience prior to serving on the Supreme Court.

From crowd-sourcer Joshua:

Where Justice Frankfurter is concerned, it is true that he had no prior State or Federal civilian judicial experience (see…). He did server in the Judge Advocate General’s corp in WWI, and appears to have served as the Judge Advocate General himself ( However, I’ve been able to find nothing to suggest that he ever served as a judge in a military tribunal, as opposed to either overseeing the military courts administratively or serving as a defense or prosecution advocate.

Justice Rehnquist had no experience as a judge before his term on the Supreme Court (see…,,

Now regarding Justices “Marshall” and “Jackson” – judicial experience depends on which person you are talking about. More from crowd-sourcer Joshua:

Justice Robert Jackson, who served on the Supreme Court from 1941 to 1954, had no prior judicial experience, though Justice Howell Jackson, serving on the Supreme Court from 1893 to 1895, had previously served as a federal circuit judge. Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Elena Kagan clerked, had served as a judge on the Second Circuit from 1961 to 1965, prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court. However, Justice John Marshall, who served as Chief Justice from 1801 to 1835, had no judicial experience prior to his appointment.

We will include some more research and analysis from Joshua at the bottom of this post, which is also worth reading. But the bottom line is, without Sen. Schumer being specific it is impossible to give him better than a HALF TRUE on this statement. The lack of specificity is misleading. And even if he intended Justices Robert Jackson and John Marshall we’d probably only give the statement a MOSTLY TRUE.

The fact-checking of this statement took a combined 90 minutes.

Here is the rest of the research and links from crowd-sourcer Joshua:

Thurgood Marshall served on the Second Circuit from 1961 to 1965 (see Given that Kagan has no prior judicial experience, I think it is, at best, barely true to say that Marshall and Kagan has “about as much” experience. The difference between zero years and 5 years is rather significant.

It is possible the Senator was speaking of John Marshall instead (the fourth and arguably most influential Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, serving for the first third of the 19th century). John Marshall did not have any prior experience as a judge (see…). Given the massive changes in our system of Federalism since that time, especially those taking place immediately after the Civil War, a comparison of John Marshall to Kagan is, at best, inapt. However, the statement would be literally true.

There have been two Justice Jacksons. Justice Howell Jackson served on the Court from 1893 to 1895. He had previous served as a Judge on the Sixth Circuit from 1886 to 1893 (see…,…). He has also served on a Court of Arbitration set up in Tennessee to deal with the post-Civil War backlog of cases in 1875, though I cannot find any reference to the length of his term on that court (…).

Justice Robert Jackson served on the Court from 1941 to 1954. He did not have any prior experience as a judge (see…,,… at p.3).