Wiley Rutledge held degrees from University of Wisconsin and University of Colorado. He taught law at University of Colorado from 1924 to 1926. In 1926, he moved to Washington University in St. Louis College of Law, where he served as a professor and dean until 1935. He left Washington University for University of Iowa College of Law, where he served as dean until 1939. While serving as dean, he also taught courses in administrative law and the judicial process.
President Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1939, and then to the United States Supreme Court in 1943. He served on the Supreme Court until his death in 1949.