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Shark Week: Our Three Favorite Sharks on the Supreme Court

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

If you happen to flip through to the Discovery Channel this week, you'll notice that it's "Shark Week," the station's wildly successful tribute to the attorneys of the sea. In honor of our gilled-brethren, we here at FindLaw are celebrating shark week ourselves with a look at legal sharks throughout the profession.

Don't think that sharks are limited to private practice, either. There have been plenty of sharky lawyers on the Supreme Court throughout the years. Here are three we think are of particular note.

Samuel Chase

If you think Scalia or Sotomayor is too partisan, you should check out Samuel Chase, the only Supreme Court Justice to have been impeached. Chase was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and was appointed to the High Court in 1796 by George Washington himself.

Chase was an extremely partisan Founding Father. He was a staunch Federalist and openly used his position on the Court to make political points -- often at Thomas Jefferson's expense. Though his shark-like tenacity got him in trouble, he was eventually acquitted of all the charges that led to his impeachment.

Owen Roberts

Sharks know when it's time to stop swimming against the tide. Roberts, once a grand defender of Lochner era jurisprudence, was part of the "Four Horsemen" who repeatedly struck down progressive New Deal legislation. When the Court's intransigence led President Franklin Roosevelt to threaten packing the court with six more Justices, Roberts deftly pivoted, leaving the conservative wing of the Court and joining with the liberals to support F.D.R.'s new programs. It was "the switch in time that saved nine."

Thurgood Marshall

Sharks can be heroes, too. Thurgood Marshall, perhaps one of the most beloved Justices, had a long career as a master litigator for the NAACP before joining the Supreme Court. He was a great legal strategist, luring the court, inch by inch, from endorsing segregation to deciding Brown v. Board of Education. Over more than a decade, he argued cases that would slowly advance the Court's thinking on race and equal rights, winning 29 out of his 32 cases before the Court.

Honorable Mention: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You wouldn't know it to look at her, but the notorious RBG is a killer. Over the last few terms, Ginsburg has united the liberal wing of Roberts' Court into a disciplined, unified voice. That's a stark contrast from the many splintered dissents by just about every conservative Justice in recent cases -- from the four dissents in Obergefell, which invalidated same sex marriage bans, to the three dissents in King v. Burwell, which upheld Obamacare, again.

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