25 Renowned Jurists you Must Know | Top Legal Luminaries

By | April 30, 2020
25 Jurists you must know

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The legacy and eccentric nature of law have always been carried by few renowned Jurists in the world, who not only inspires the young aspirants of law but are also known for their commendable achievements and contribution to the field. Their presence has always played a significant role in bringing changes to the conservative rules of law.

With knowledge and experience, they were able to resolve various essential and controversial cases widely known for distinctive nature.

Here are the names of 25 renowned and prominent jurists of the world, who are famous for their outstanding knowledge and experience in the field of law.

1. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Cicero- the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist is considered the father of law. Cicero expressed principles that became the bedrock of liberty in the modern world. The body of Cicero’s political philosophy is composed of three related elements— a belief in natural law, natural equality and the state as natural to man.

2. Hugo Grotius (1583 – 1645)

Hugo Grotius is popularly known as Father of International Law. He was a major figure in the fields of philosophy, political theory and law during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. He introduced the concept of “reasoning” in International law, that is to say, he based international law on the principles governing natural law. The Peace Palace Library in The Hague holds the Grotius Collection, which has a large number of books by and about Hugo Grotius.

3. Montesquieu (1689-1755)

A famous french political philosopher, an eminent jurist, and a well-known judge, Montesquieu is widely known for the principle source of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He published the famous ‘Spirit of law‘ in 1748, which played a role in forming the constitution of the United States.

4. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Jeremy Bentham is one of the most famous philosophers, jurist and is widely known for his theory on Utilitarianism. He had not only written reforms for the equal treatment of homosexuals but was also a great supporter of animal rights. He had codified all of the common law into a coherent set of statues.

5. John Marshall (1755-1835)

Born on 24, 1755, in rural Fauquier County, Virginia, John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1801. This Jurist is famous for one of his first landmark cases, Marbury V. Madison, accounted as the basis for Judicial Review. He is clearly responsible for setting up the system of Judicial Review, which allowed the Supreme Court to declare laws made by Congress as Ultra-vires (Unconstitutional).

6. John Austin (1790 – 1859)

John Austin was a noted English legal theorist, who influenced British and American law with his analytical approach to jurisprudence and his theory of legal positivism. Austin’s particular command theory of law ‘law is a command of the sovereign’ has been subject to pervasive criticism, but its simplicity gives it an evocative power that continues to attract adherents.

7. Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922)

Albert Venn Dicey was a British Jurist and a constitutional theorist. He has written the famous, ‘Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution‘ and popularised the phrase “rule of law“, although its use goes back to the 17th century. He was a renowned professor of law at the then London School of Economics.

8. Sir William Anson (1843-1941)

He was a famous British Jurist and Liberal Unionist politician. He is famous for his volumes on ‘The Principles of the English Law of Contract‘. He was the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University from 1898-1899 and also served as the Member of Parliament of Oxford University in Liberal Unionist interest.

9. Sir John William Salmond KC (1862-1924)

He was a famous legal scholar, public servant, and a renowned jurist from New Zealand. He was the author of ‘Jurisprudence or the Theory of the Law which had won the Swiney Prize in 1914 by the Royal Society of Arts. He wrote the famous ‘Law of Torts‘ for which Harvard University in 1911 awarded Salmond the James Barr Ames prize for the best legal treatise published in the world over a period of five years.

10. Carl Schmitt (1888-1985)

One of the eminent and conservation German Jurist, Carl Schmitt has been known for his work: Hamlet or Hecuba and Nomos of the Earth. He had his close association and political allegiance with Nazism.

11. Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

He was a famous American lawyer, who served as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Nations. An African- American justice widely known for ending racial segregation in public schools of the US, by winning the Brown V. Board of Education in 1954. He was also the recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.

12. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-present)

The First Jewish female Justice of Supreme Court of United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is widely known for eliminating gender discrimination and uniting the liberal block of the court. She gave the verdict of United States v. Virginia 1966, holding that qualified women cannot be denied admission to Virginia Military Institute.

13. Lord Richard Atkin (1867- 1944)

He was a famous jurist and judge of Irish, Welsh and Australian origin, who practised in England and Wales. He was a member of House of Lords and in 1932, Lord Atkin gave the judgment of Donoghue v. Stevenson’s case, responsible for establishing the neighbour principle in the tort of negligence. He was also the president of the London Welsh Trust.

14. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American Jurist and lawyer who served as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His influential position in the 1919 judgment of Schenck v. United States and his dissent in Abrams v. United States has clearly made him a renowned personality. ‘The Magnificent Yankee’ is a Biography of Holmes written by Francis Biddle.

15. William Francis Murphy (1890-1949)

He was a jurist and a politician from Michigan and served as the Attorney general of the United States. He is famous for writing the majority of opinion in the E.C. v. W.J. Howey case and dissenting opinion on Korematsu v. United States case. He also served as the governor-general of the Philippine Island and Governor of Michigan.

16. Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

In 1835, Lord Macaulay was appointed as Chairman of the First Law Commission. Due to the labours of the Law Commission, many important Acts were enacted during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. To name a few, the Indian Penal Code which is still in force was the product of the original work of Lord Macaulay.


17. B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was one of the most renowned Indian Jurist and politicians of India, with an aim to end social discrimination towards the untouchables. He served as the first Law Minister of Independent India and drafted the Indian Constitution. He is known as the father of the Indian Constitution.

18. Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad (1884-1974)

An Indian Jurist who served as the first and longest Attorney General of India from 1950-1963. He was also the Chairman of the First Law Commission of India. He represented India in the Radcliffe Commission that demarcated the border between India and West Pakistan. Under his Chairmanship, the Law Commission of India prepared significant reports like- Contract Act 1872, Income-tax Act,1922, etc. He was also the recipient of Padma Vibhushan in 1957.

19. Ram Jethmalani (1923-2019)

He is the most famous and experienced lawyer and jurist in India. He served as India’s Union Minister of law and justice and the chairman of the Indian Bar Council. He appeared as the defense in the Indira Gandhi assassination case and Jayalalitha’s defense in the disproportionate assets case. He received the International Jurist Award and Human Rights Award By World Peace through law in 1977. Unchanged, Unrepentant – The charm which Mr. Ram Jethmalani is!

20. Soli Jehangir Sorabjee (1930- present)

One of the famous Indian Jurist, who served as the Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee is widely known for fighting for the protection of Human Rights and freedom of expression. He fought in the Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala and was awarded Padma Vibhushan for his practices.

21. Prof. (Dr.) Upendra Baxi (1938 – Present)

Prof. (Dr.) Upendra Baxi is a legal scholar, since 1996 professor of law in development at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. He has been the vice-chancellor of University of Delhi (1990–1994), prior to which he held the position of professor of law at the same university for 23 years (1973–1996).

Some of his major works include “Voices of Suffering, Fragmented Universality, and the future of Human Rights” and “From Human Rights to the Right to be Human: Some Heresies”. Democratic Constitutionalism in Crisis – Prof. (Dr.) Upendra Baxi

22. Ashok Desai (1942-2020)

Ashok H. Desai is an Indian jurist and a practicing lawyer of the Supreme Court. He held office as the Attorney General of India from 9 July 1996 to 6 May 1998. He had fought various famous cases like Sakharam Binder, Piloo Modi, Antulay, Ramanna Shetty, Narasimha Rao about Parliamentary privilege, Vineet Narain, etc.

23. Fali Sam Nariman ( 1929- present)

He is currently a very renowned and notable Indian Jurist and has served as the President of Bar Association of India since 1991. He was the recipient of Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007. He has fought highly controversial and important cases like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, Golak Nath v. the State of Punjab. He wrote the famous book called ‘God save the honourable Supreme Court’.

24. Indira Jaising (1940-present)

She is one of the most famous Human rights lawyers in India is known for her legal activism relating to women’s equal rights. She has been ranked 20 in the 2018 list of 50 great leaders of the world by Fortune Magazine. She has fought various particularly dealing with women’s right to inherit property and against triple talaq. In 2005, the President of India honoured her with Padma Shree.

25. Indu Malhotra (1956-present)

She is another woman eminent jurist and the Judge of the Supreme Court. She was the second woman to be designated as Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court in 2007. She has appeared for various prominent and significant cases like Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT. of Delhi, India oxygen v. Collector of Central Excise. She authored the third edition of commentary ‘The Law and Practice of Arbitration and Conciliation (2014)’.

(The above list is not an exhaustive list)

Contributed By: Urvashi Arora


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Author: Mayank Shekhar

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.