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Supreme Court Justices

Joseph McKenna (1843-1926)

Joseph McKenna was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 10, 1843. His family emigrated from Ireland. When he was 12, his father moved the family to California. McKenna, a Roman Catholic, was educated in Catholic schools. McKenna was admitted to the California bar in 1865, and within a year, was a district attorney. McKenna was elected to the House of Representatives in 1885 as a Republican, and remained there until he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1892. In 1897, McKenna was named Attorney General by President William McKinley. He served in that position for just a few months, because McKinley nominated McKenna to replace retiring Justice Stephen Field, also a Californian, in December 1897. McKenna was confirmed in January 1898. He remained on the Court for 27 years, resigning in January 1925 only after a visit from Chief Justice Taft, necessitated by McKenna's lessened ability to perform his work. McKenna wrote very few important opinions. Two opinions that stand out are Hipolite Egg Co. v. United States, in which McKenna, for a unanimous Court upheld the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and Hoke v. United States, which upheld the Mann Act, which barred the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes. Four years later, McKenna dissented from the Court's opinion in Caminetti v. United States (1917), which held the act applied to private, noncommercial enticements to cross state lines for the purposes of encouraging a sexual liaison. For McKenna, the Mann Act (aka "White-Slave Traffic Act") regulated commercial vice, "immoralities having a mercenary purpose." He joined the Court's substantive due process jurisprudence as enunciated in Lochner v. New York (1905). 

McKenna was married to Amanda Borneman in 1869, and they became parents of four children, three daughters and one son. McKenna died on November 21, 1926.

Further reading: Brother Matthew McKevitt, Joseph McKenna: Associate Justice of the United States (1946)