Why did Justices Reed, Jackson, and Rutledge recuse in Shelley v. Kraemer?

October 2nd, 2012

I am teaching Shelley v. Kraemer in class tomorrow. I had always thought that the opinion was unanimous, but I had forgotten that three Justices recused–Reed, Jackson, and Rutledge.  So the vote was 6-0, with Vinson writing for the Court.

Justice Stevens, who clerked for Justice Rutledge during the October 1947 Term, offers a theory in 5 Chiefs why the trio recused:

Justice Rutledge and two other justices did not participate in those cases, presumably because they owned property burdened with covenants prohibiting their sale to African Americans.

Fascinating history.

Here are several photographs of the house at issue in Shelley v. Kraemer (courtesy of Katie Crytzer).  I have an album of photos of the house from Shelley v. Kraemer here: