U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS courtroom

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SCOTUSblog is letting readers vote on the greatest U.S. Supreme Court justice of all time through its “SCOTUS bracketology,” a March Madness-style tournament, that begins with a “Supreme 16.”

Among the initial justice matchups are Justices Sandra Day O’Connor vs. John Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs. William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall vs. Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy vs. Earl Warren, and Felix Frankfurter vs. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As of Friday, leaders in those matchups were John Marshall, Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall, Warren and Holmes.

All nine current justices are excluded from the tournament. SCOTUSblog created the brackets by beginning with about three dozen former justices with plausible claims to being best.

Then the blog chose the 16 contenders based on length of court tenure, number of opinions widely seen as landmark decisions, number of opinions defined as “precedent-altering” on a law school database, and presence on other “greatest” lists. Trailblazing justices whose impact wasn’t limited to formal rulings got a boost.

The blog noted that the list is necessarily subjective.

“Some in the tournament are seen as legendary primarily for writing opinions that have stood the test of time,” the blog said. “Others were politically savvy figures, shaping the court as an institution and guiding how it exerts its power. Still others in the field overcame discrimination and forever changed the very notion of who could sit on the nation’s highest court.”

Readers have until March 21 to cast their votes in the first round.