Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

Justice Joseph Story: The Youngest Justice Appointed to the Court

Most lawyers in private practice at the age of 32 are preparing for potential consideration for, and transition to, partnership.  At that same age, after a distinguished government and law firm career in Boston, Joseph Story took his seat on the United States Supreme Court in 1811, becoming the 18th Justice of the Supreme Court and the youngest justice appointed to the Supreme Court.  Story served on the Court for almost thirty-four years, writing a large number of opinions and dissents.  His tenure coincided with those of two of the longest serving Chief Justices in the Supreme Court’s history, John Marshall and Roger B. Taney.

Read more

Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

Section 34 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 provides that “the laws of the several states, except where the Constitution, treaties or statutes of the United States shall otherwise recognize or provide” were to be applied and followed “as rules of decision in trials at common law.” George Swift, a Maine resident, was assigned a bill of exchange from John Tyson in New York.  The bill was dishonored when it became due, and Swift brought a diversity action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking payment.  New York common law held that bills of exchange could not be assigned, and the federal court found in Tyson’s favor on that basis.  Swift appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and the main issue before the court was whether the reference to “the laws of the several states” in Section 34 included common law decisions as well as enacted statutes.

Read more

Guest Essayist: The Honorable John N. Hostettler


Congress Sets Times for Electors

Article II, Section 1. Clause 4:

The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Title 3, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code describes the timeframe for the choosing of and voting by members of the Electoral College.

Sec. 1: The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.18

Sec. 7: The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct.19 [emphasis added]

Choosing Electors: A Case Study

The presidential election of 2000 provided an excellent insight into the practical application of the Constitution’s provision for choosing electors for that office. After the polls closed on November 7, 2000, attention soon turned to the state of Florida and a growing controversy over punch-card ballots used in a few of its counties. The combined count of the electors from all of the states presumed to be assigned to the Democrat candidate Albert Gore, Jr. Republican candidate George W. Bush indicated that the race was going to be close that the results of the popular vote for president in Florida would determine the outcome of the race. This was due to the fact that the assignment of electors would be determined by that popular vote.

Read more