Why Write About Justice Sutherland?

89px-Senator_George_SutherlandSo why I am interested in writing about George Sutherland?  I’ll outline that in greater detail over the coming weeks, but here are some reasons.

1.  He was the intellectual leader of the Four Horsemen.  That’s a good reason.  I am also intrigued at looking at the New Deal from the losing side.

2.  On the other hand, Sutherland was far from a reactionary conservative.  As a Senator for 12 years from Utah, he was the leading advocate for women’s suffrage.  (And the only Justice who spoke up for gender equality in opinions until the 1970s.)  He also supported many progressive measures in Congress, and was endorsed by Samuel Gompers during his unsuccessful reelection bid in 1916.  Sutherland also wrote several groundbreaking opinions defending civil liberties, such as the Scottsboro Boys case (Powell v. Alabama).

3.  Sutherland is the only Supreme Court Justice from Utah.  While he was not a Mormon, he spent much of his career dealing with the Mormon Church (including the legal issues surrounding polygamy), and this is an intriguing part of his story.

More to come . . .

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1 Response

  1. cong ty luat says:

    More information about some Justice Sutherland:

    In 1900, Sutherland received the Republican nomination as the party’s candidate for Utah’s seat in the federal House of Representatives. In the subsequent election, Sutherland narrowly defeated his Democratic incumbent (and former law partner), William H. King, by 241 votes out of over 90,000 cast. He went on to serve as a Representative in the 57th Congress, where he fought to maintain the tariff on sugar and was active in both Indian affairs and legislation addressing the irrigation of arid lands.

    Senator George Sutherland c. 1910
    Sutherland declined to run for a second term and returned to Utah in order to campaign for election to the United States Senate. With the state legislature firmly under Republican control, the contest was an intra-party battle with the incumbent, Thomas Kearns. With the backing of Utah’s other senator, Reed Smoot, Sutherland secured the unanimous support of the caucus in January 1905. Sutherland repaid his debt to Smoot in 1907 by speaking on the floor in the Senate in defense of the senior senator during the climax of the Smoot hearings.
    Sutherland’s tenure in the Senate coincided with the Progressive Era in American politics. He voted for much of Theodore Roosevelt’ s legislative program, including the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Hepburn Act, and the Federal Employers Liability Act. He was also “a longstanding women’s rights advocate. He introduced the Nineteenth Amendment into the Senate . . . campaigned for the passage of that amendment, helped draft the Equal Rights Amendment, and was a friend and adviser of Alice Paul of the National Woman’s Party.” Yet he generally sided with the “Old Guard” of conservatives who battled with their Progressive counterparts within the party during William Howard Taft’s presidency. He was also involved closely with the legal codification of the period, and joined Taft in opposing the legislation admitting New Mexico and Arizona into the union because of clauses within their constitutions allowing for the recall of judges.
    The election of Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic takeover of Congress in 1912 put Sutherland and the other conservatives on the defensive. By now a national figure, Sutherland opposed many of Wilson’s legislative proposals and foreign policy measures. Sutherland’s opposition contributed to his defeat in 1916, when he faced reelection for the first time under the terms of the Seventeenth Amendment. Once again he faced William H. King, who campaigned on Sutherland’s opposition to the popular president. Following his Senate defeat, he resumed the private practice of law in Washington, D.C., and served as President of the American Bar Association from 1916 to 1917.

    Supreme Court

    On September 5, 1922, Sutherland was nominated by President Warren G. Harding to the Associate Justice seat on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by John Hessin Clarke. Sutherland was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 5, 1922, and received his commission the same day.

    Justice Sutherland, c. 1937
    Sutherland wrote a decision refusing to declare unconstitutional a local zoning ordinance, in Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co.. The decision was widely interpreted as a general endorsement of the constitutionality of zoning laws.
    During Franklin Roosevelt’s early years in office as president, Justice Sutherland along with James Clark McReynolds, Pierce Butler and Willis Van Devanter, was part of the conservative Four Horsemen, who were instrumental in striking down Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Sutherland was regarded as the leader of this conservative bloc of judges as well.
    Important decisions authored by Sutherland include the 1932 case Powell v. Alabama, overturning a conviction in the Scottsboro Boys Case because the defendant, Ozie Powell, was deprived of his right to counsel, and U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp..
    In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), Sutherland authored a decision which decided that Indian Sikh, although classified as members of the “Caucasian race,” were not white within the meaning of the Naturalization Act of 1790, and thus ineligible for naturalized American citizenship.
    In 1937, the Supreme Court began to side with New Deal policies and Sutherland’s influence declined. Sutherland retired from the U.S. Supreme Court on January 17, 1938, as the balance of power in the US Supreme Court was shifting away from him. Following his retirement as a Justice, Sutherland sat by special designation as a member of the Second Circuit panel that reviewed the bribery conviction of former Second Circuit Chief Judge Martin Manton, and authored the court’s opinion upholding the convictionDeath

    While vacationing with his wife at a resort in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Sutherland suffered a severe heart attack on the afternoon of July 17, 1942. He died in his sleep some time between 4:00 AM and 9:30 AM on July 18, his wife by his side. They had celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary just 29 days before.
    Sutherland was interred at Abbey Mausoleum in Arlington County, Virginia. In 1958, his remains were removed and reburied at Cedar Hill Cemetery near Suitland, Maryland.