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Supreme Court Justices

Stanley Matthews (1824-1889)

Stanley Matthews was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 21, 1824. Matthews was the eldest child of Thomas and Isabella (Brown) Matthews. Matthews graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio at age 16. He read law for two years, and then moved to Tennessee to practice law. He later returned to Ohio and served as a United States Attorney in Ohio in the late 1850s. Although an abolitionist, Matthews prosecuted a newspaper editor for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 during his time as U.S. Attorney. During the Civil War, Matthews served in the Union Army in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry with future President Rutherford B. Hayes, a college classmate of Matthews. During the disputed presidential election of 1876 between Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden (see the biography of Joseph Bradley for details), Matthews represented the Republican Hayes in Louisiana in its election dispute. Although Matthews lost an election for a congressional bid in 1876, he was appointed Senator from Ohio in 1877, and served for two years. In 1881, lame duck President Hayes nominated Matthews to the Court to replace Noah Swayne. Congress let the nomination lapse. Matthews was re-nominated by incoming President James Garfield, and after a bitter debate in the Senate, was confirmed by a vote of 24-23.

Matthews wrote several important opinions for the Court. In Hurtado v. California (1884), Matthews concluded that states are not required to use a grand jury indictment to begin state criminal proceedings. Although most of the first eight (8) amendments to the Bill of Rights have subsequently been "incorporated" (that is, applied) to the states as well as the federal government through the due process clause of the 14th amendment, Hurtado remains good law. A state may begin a criminal proceeding against an accused by use of a criminal complaint. Two years later, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886), during a period of increasing hostility to Chinese immigrants to the United States, Matthews held unconstitutional San Francisco's ordinance barring public laundries in wooden buildings. Although the ordinance was written in neutral terms, Matthews took judicial notice of the fact that nearly all of the buildings to which the ordinance applied were owned or operated by Chinese launderers. Thus, the law was unconstitutional because it was applied in and unjust and illegal manner.

Matthews died on March 22, 1889. He was married to Mary Ann Black in 1844. After her death in 1885, he married Mary Theaker.