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Supreme Court Justices

William Moody (1853-1917)

William Moody was born in Massachusetts on December 23, 1853. Moody's ancestors were Puritans who had settled in colonial Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1872. He then attended Harvard Law School, which was then undergoing a transformation through Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell. Moody left the law school after four months, and became a member of the Massachusetts bar after reading law. As a prosecutor, Moody became known for losing the murder case against Lizzie Borden ("Lizzie Borden, with an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she found what she had done, she gave her father forty-one!" At least according to a ditty that has followed the case to this day.). Moody was elected to Congress in the mid-1890s, and served for three terms. In 1902, Moody was appointed secretary of the navy by President Teddy Roosevelt. Two years later, TR appointed him Attorney General. Two years after that appointment, TR nominated Moody to the Supreme Court, to replace the retiring Justice Henry Brown. Moody remained on the Court for a mere four years. In 1908, Moody suffered from rheumatism, and resigned in 1910 after Congress passed a bill granting him retirement benefits.

Moody was a member of the majority in Adair v. United States, 208 U.S. 161 (1908), which held that the Erdman Act of 1898, which prohibited yellow dog contracts in employment contracts involving interstate commerce, was unconstitutional. Adair was later cited by Progressives as one of the cases emblematic of the Court's efforts at  "Lochnerizing," or importing into the Constitution concepts such as laissez faire economic thinking and anti-union bias. Moody wrote the Court's opinion in Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78 (1908), in which the Court held that the privilege against self-incrimination found in the Fifth Amendment did not apply to state prosecutions. Twining was overruled in 1964 by the Warren Court in Malloy v. Hogan (1964).

Moody was never married