William Howard Taft : biography

September 15, 1857 - March 8, 1930

While Chief Justice, Taft wrote the opinion for the Court in 256 cases out of the Court's ever-growing caseload. His philosophy of constitutional interpretation was essentially historical contextualism. Some of his more notable opinions include:

  • Balzac v. Porto Rico, (opinion for the Court)
    • Ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply the criminal provisions of the Bill of Rights to overseas territories. This was one of the more famous of the Insular Cases.
  • Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding the 1919 Child Labor Tax Law unconstitutional.
  • Hill v. Wallace, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding the Future Trading Act an unconstitutional use of Congress's taxing power
  • Adkins v. Children's Hospital, (dissenting opinion)
    • Disapproving of the Court's upholding of Lochner v. New York. In 1937, the Supreme Court agreed with Taft and overruled this decision permanently.
  • Board of Trade of City of Chicago v. Olsen, (opinion for the Court)
    • Upholding the constitutionality of the Grain Futures Act under the Commerce Clause
  • Ex Parte Grossman, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding that the President's pardon power extends to pardoning people held for criminal contempt. While the Supreme Court rules provide for issuing writs of habeas corpus within the Court's original jurisdiction, Taft's opinion in Grossman was the last time the Court did so.
  • Carroll v. United States, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding that police searches of automobiles without a warrant do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the police have probable cause to believe that contraband would be found in the automobile
  • Samuels v. McCurdy, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding that a prohibition on an item formerly possessed legally is not an ex post facto law, because its possession is an ongoing condition.
  • Myers v. United States, (opinion for the Court)
    • Ruling that the President of the United States had the power to unilaterally dismiss Executive Branch appointees who had been confirmed by the Senate.
  • United States v. General Electric Co., (opinion for the Court)
    • Ruling that a patentee who has granted a single license to a competitor to manufacture the patented product may lawfully fix the price at which the licensee may sell the product.
  • Lum v. Rice, (opinion for the Court)
    • Ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment did not prohibit Mississippi's prevention of Asian children attending white schools during racial segregation. The Supreme Court overruled this opinion in 1954.
  • Olmstead v. United States, (opinion for the Court)
    • Ruling that the judicial practice of excluding evidence obtained without a warrant was based on the Fourth Amendment's proscription on unreasonable search and seizure but did not apply to telephone wiretapping.
  • Wisconsin v. Illinois, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding that the equitable power of the United States can be used to impose positive action on the states in a situation where non-action would result in damage to the interests of other states.
  • Old Colony Trust Co. v. Commissioner, (opinion for the Court)
    • Holding that where a third party pays the income tax owed by an individual, the amount of tax paid constitutes additional income to the taxpayer.

Death and legacy

Taft retired as Chief Justice on February 3, 1930, because of ill health. Charles Evans Hughes, whom he had appointed as an Associate Justice while President, succeeded him as Chief Justice.

Five weeks following his retirement, Taft died on March 8, 1930, the same date as Associate Justice Edward Terry Sanford's unexpected death. As it was customary for members of the court to attend the funeral of deceased members, this posed a "logistical nightmare", necessitating cross-country travel. Supreme Court Historical Society at Internet Archive.Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 – 41 (Feb 19, 2008), University of Alabama. The house at which Taft died is now the diplomatic mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United States.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine