In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson persuaded Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg to resign his seat to become Ambassador to the United Nations replacing the late Adlai Stevenson. In Goldberg’s place, he nominated his longtime friend Abe Fortas to the Court.

Johnson thought that some of his Great Society reforms could be ruled unconstitutional by the Court, and he felt that Fortas would let him know if that was to happen. Abe Fortas made it onto the Supreme Court where he was an influential liberal voice for Johnson; they remained close friends and Fortas co-wrote Johnson’s 1966 State of the Union speech, although these antics didn’t charm Fortas to neither the Congress nor the other Justices on the court. 

He entered into a feud with fellow Justice Hugo Black, his friend since the 1930s who had convinced Fortas’ wife to let Fortas accept his appointment to the Court. All these animosities plusa $15,000 payment for a university seminar series surfaced when Johnson nominated Fortas for the role of chief justice in 1968.

Fortas became the first Chief Justice nominee to fail to win Senate approval since John Rutledge in 1795 — and by filibuster, at that. After it was clear the Senate would not give up, Fortas asked that his name be withdrawn. A year later, Fortas resigned from the Court amid rumors of financial securities violations and a possible impeachmentca.

In above undated (1963-1969) photo, Johnson leans over Fortas to parody how he gets his way in Washington. 

3 thoughts on “Johnson-Fortas

  1. Not a parody. There are many photos of the “Johnson lean”. Getting into someone’s personal space is a very effective tool and Johnson did it constantly.

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