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Supreme Court Justices

Mahlon Pitney (1858-1924)

Mahlon Pitney was born in New Jersey on February 5, 1858. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Rutgers University) in 1879 and then read law. Pitney practiced law for over a decade in New Jersey. He was elected to Congress in 1894. After serving two terms in the House of Representatives, Pitney was elected to the New Jersey Senate in 1898. In 1901, Pitney was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1901. He became Chancellor in 1908, and remained so until he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1912 by President William Howard Taft. Pitney was a strong supporter of the Court's substantive due process jurisprudence, which was part and parcel of his social darwinism.

Pitney did write the opinion for the Court in New York Cent. R.R. Co. v. White (1917), which upheld New York's workman's (now worker's) compensation law against a due process challenge. This statute made an employer liable for a workman's injuries without any showing of fault, which was alleged to violate the due process right of employers to their property. Pitney declared, "It is plain that, on grounds of natural justice, it is not unreasonable for the state, while relieving the employer from responsibility for damages measured by common-law standards ... to require him to contribute a reasonable amount ... irrespective of the question of negligence."

Pitney remained on the Court for 10 years. He resigned after he suffered a stroke in 1922. He died in 1924.