JUDICIARY: Wrath without Dignity

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Fred Vinson had scarcely got news of his new appointment—as the "peacekeeping" Chief Justice—when a sample of the thing which confronts him blew up in his face.

All the way from Nurnberg, Justice Robert Jackson, on leave to prosecute Nazi war criminals, hurled an unseemly and unprecedented charge against his colleague Justice Hugo Black. Black had attacked him, he raged. Now that the Chief Justice appointment was settled, Mr. Justice Jackson was lashing right back.

"It is high time," he trumpeted, "that Congress has the facts. If war is declared on me I propose to wage it with the weapons of an open warrior, not those of a stealthy assassin."

He addressed his bundle of dirty linen to the Judiciary committees of both the Senate and the House.

Everybody in Washington had known for a long time that Justices Black and Jackson mortally hated each other. Now Jackson told his version of the cause of the feud.

A year ago Black's ex-law partner, Crampton Harris, had come before the Supreme Court representing the miners in the famed "portal-to-portal" case. Jackson thought Black should disqualify himself. Instead, Black voted with the majority in favor of the union. Despite the fact Black's vote did not alter the decision, Jackson sharply rapped Black.

"Declaration of War." "Mr. Justice Black became very angry," Jackson angrily recalled, "and said that any opinion which discussed the subject at all would mean a 'declaration of war.' I told Justice Black in language that was sharp, but no different than I would use again, that I would not stand for any more of his bullying."

Jackson baldly stated that he thought it was Black who had waged a subtle war in Washington to keep him from getting the Chief Justiceship. He intimated that Elack had used pert Washington Star Columnist Doris Fleeson to further his ends. He quoted from a May 16 column in which Miss Fleeson reported the start of the feud. Wrote she: "Justice Black reacted with fiery scorn to what he regarded as an open and gratuitous 'insult, a slur upon his personal and judicial honor. Nor did he bother to conceal his contempt. . . ."

Bothering neither to conceal his own indignation nor protect the dignity of the highest court, Justice Jackson called in newspaper correspondents to tell them about it. He ended his extraordinary statement piously: "It is desirable to get the controversy all back of us now so that he [Vinson] can take up his tasks without a cloud hanging over the court."