Rutledge, John, 1739–1800, American jurist and political leader, 2d chief justice of the United States, b. Charleston, S.C.; brother of Edward Rutledge. After studying law in London he began practice in Charleston, S.C., in 1761. He rose to prominence when quite young, was a member (1762) of the provincial assembly, attorney general of South Carolina (1764–65), and a delegate (1765) to the Stamp Act Congress. He twice (1774–76, 1782–83) was a member of the Continental Congress and meanwhile held strong sway as president (1776–78) of his state and later (1779–82) as governor. As delegate (1787) to the Constitutional Convention, Rutledge played an important role in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, and then (1788) was a member of the state ratifying convention. After serving (1789–91) as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court he was chief justice of South Carolina. In July, 1795, he was appointed interim chief justice of the United States and presided at the August term of the Supreme Court, but the Senate (Dec., 1795) refused to confirm the appointment because of his bitter attacks on Jay's Treaty.
See biography by R. H. Barry (1942, repr. 1971).