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Supreme Court Justices

George Shiras (1832-1924 )

George Shiras, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 26, 1832. He was born into wealth, and attended Yale College, and returned to Pittsburgh to practice law. When the Civil War erupted, Shiras, not yet 30, decided not to join the Union Army, but instead continued successfully to practice law. Possibly as a result of his family's wealth, Shiras declined offers to support his election to public office. In July 1892, President Benjamin Harrison nominated Shiras to replace Joseph Bradley, also of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed in October. Shiras joined the Court in its trio of reactionary 1895 opinions, United States v. E.C. Knight, Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Co., and In re Debs, and accepted the Court's initial approach to substantive due process. In Pollock, Shiras was excoriated for switching his vote concerning the constitutionality of the income tax. When the first decision was issued, the Court was split 4-4 on the constitutionality of the federal income tax. On rehearing, dying Justice Howell Jackson attended oral argument and voted to uphold its constitutionality. Shiras recanted his earlier vote, and voted with the majority to declare the income tax unconstitutional. There is some debate about whether Shiras was the pivotal member, but he has been blamed for necessitating the Sixteenth Amendment.

Shiras resigned from the Court in 1903. He lived for another 21 years, dying on August 2, 1924, at age 92.