From the ABA Journal, we learn of the colorful history of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field. The events described in the article were hardly all that added color to his life story. For a more complete look at the man, read this review of Justice Stephen Field: Shaping Liberty from the Gold Rush to the Gilded Age, a biography. An excerpt:
And, indeed, when Field made an enemy, apparently it was for life. Thus, one of his "critics," William Turner, described Field's career in California as "series of little-minded meanliness, of braggadocio, pusillanimity, and contemptible vanity, which when known will sink him so low in public estimation that the hand of the resurrectionist will never reach him." Field returned the sentiments. Turner, who had served with Field as a California judge, was a man "of depraved tastes, of vulgar habits, of ungovernable temper, reckless of truth ... and grossly incompetent to discharge the duties of his office" (pp. 34-5).
The remainder of Kens's chapters focus on Field's High Court career, from March 1863, when Lincoln appointed him as the tenth justice, to 1897 when--suffering from marked physical discomfort and mental confusion if not feebleness--he reluctantly resigned, effective December 1, 1897. Field served during the presidencies of Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison and McKinley. In an era much less sensitive to appearances of judicial impropriety, Field remained on the bench in numerous cases where one of the participating lawyers was his brother David Dudley Field. Moreover, he welcomed his brother's management of an ill-conceived and unrealistic movement to push Stephen Field for selection by the democrats as a presidential candidate in 1880. Like his colleagues Samuel Miller and Joseph Bradley, Field believed that he was admirably suited to be chief justice, a position to which they all aspired, though in vain.