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Letter from Eustace Seligman to Harlan Fiske Stone, February 7, 1925

Harlan Fiske Stone’s impressive five-hour testimony before the committee in an executive session on January 28, 1925, resolved doubts about his qualifications. The Senate confirmed his appointment by a vote of 71–6. Despite Stone’s precedent-setting testimony, it was not until the 1950s that the Senate Committee on the Judiciary made personal interviews a standard procedure for confirmation of federal court nominees.

Harlan Fiske Stone Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Letter from Eustace Seligman to Harlan Fiske Stone, February 7, 1925

The Senate Questions a Court Nominee

President Calvin Coolidge nominated Harlan Fiske Stone as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1925. Stone, the U.S. attorney general, was a widely respected lawyer. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary initially recommended his confirmation, but the matter was returned to the committee at the urging of members concerned about Stone’s investigative work and Wall Street connections. To address those concerns, Stone volunteered to appear in person before the committee—the first court nominee ever to do so.

Presidential appointments of Supreme Court justices require the Senate’s advice and consent. In 1925 Supreme Court nominee Harlan Fiske Stone set a precedent by appearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for questioning.