During a Q&A Session at a Case Western Reserve University event, Judge John E Jones III gave an anecdote about Justice David H Souter giving a tour of the Supreme Court to a Russian Judge. In this particular story he was recollecting, Justice Souter said he believed the most important Supreme Court case was Brown vs. Board of Education. The Russian Judge disagreed and said it was United States vs. Nixon.


I can't find, with internet searches, that this exchange really happened. I am not, at all, questioning Judge John E Jones III, as he is simply re-telling a story that was told to him.


Are there any reliable sources that can corroborate this account?

1 Answer 1


The Fels institute of government (University of Pensylvania) reported the the Judge Rendell's Address to Fels graduates. The U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Marjorie O. Rendell evoked the same anecdote than Judge Jones:

Justice Souter tells of a Russian lawyer who came to the Supreme Court and asked for someone to give him a tour. Justice Souter volunteered and as they were touring the building, it became apparent that the lawyer is very knowledgeable about the opinions of the Supreme Court. So Justice Souter asks how he has come to learn so much about the Court’s opinions, and the lawyer replies that during the Cold War when one of his lawyer friends would get a copy of a Supreme Court opinion, they would all meet clandestinely to discuss it. He asked Justice Souter what he thought was the most important opinion of the modern era and Justice Souter replied without hesitation, “Brown v. Board of Education.” He could see the lawyer was disappointed so he asked – What do you think was the most important? The lawyer said – “The Nixon Tapes” decision because in my country the thought that the head of the government could be told what to do by the court is unheard of.

  • @Ruut - Do you expect any answer to the rhetorical questions of your comment ?
    – Graffito
    Dec 25, 2015 at 23:00
  • 1
    @Graffito: I do. Ruut is pointing out that this answer just seems to be a repeat of the claim, and not evidence that the claim is true. Do you have a response, or should this answer be deleted?
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 25, 2015 at 23:23
  • @Ruut: This is tricky. If the question is "Did Souter meet a Russian judge and have a private conversation where this exchange happened?", it is almost impossible to prove or disprove. If the question is "Is the hearsay correct: That Souter claimed to have had this exchange, then this answer (a) provides more evidence that Souter made the claim, and (b) suggests the story has been transformed between lawyer and judge in the retellings.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 26, 2015 at 2:18
  • @Oddthinking Edited.
    – Ruut
    Dec 26, 2015 at 3:53

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