|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
March 13, 1912 – December 31, 1922
|Nominated by||William Taft|
|Preceded by||John Marshall Harlan|
|Succeeded by||Edward Sanford|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New Jersey's 4th district
March 4, 1895 – January 10, 1899
|Preceded by||Johnston Cornish|
|Succeeded by||Joshua Salmon|
|Born||February 5, 1858|
Morristown, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||December 9, 1924 (aged 66)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||Princeton University (BA)|
Mahlon R. Pitney (February 5, 1858 - December 9, 1924) was an American lawyer, jurist, and Republican Party politician who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms from 1895 to 1899. He later served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1911 to 1922.
Early life and education
Pitney was born in Morristown, New Jersey, the son of Sarah Louise (née Halsted) and Henry Cooper Pitney. He attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, where he was a classmate of Woodrow Wilson and served as manager of the campus baseball team. Upon graduation in 1879, he read law at his father's practice. Pitney passed the bar exam in 1882 and set up a private practice in Dover.
He returned to Morristown in 1889 to assume control of his father's law firm, after Henry Pitney was appointed to a judgeship. Pitney married Florence Shelton in 1891. The couple had three children, and both of their sons entered into the field of law. Pitney was the great-grandfather of actor Christopher Reeve on Reeve’s mother’s side, as well as his step great-grandfather on his father’s side. Christopher Reeve’s maternal grandmother was Beatrice Pitney, and his paternal grandmother married Mahlon Pitney IV.
In 1894, Pitney ran for the United States House of Representatives. He defeated one term incumbent Johnston Cornish for the seat from 4th congressional district, and he was reelected to a second term two years later. Pitney served as chairman of the 1895 state Republican convention and pushed for the nomination of John W. Griggs as party gubernatorial candidate. A rising star in state politics, Pitney aspired to be elected as governor. In order to further improve his local standing, he resigned from the House prior to the end of his second term and ran for election to the New Jersey Senate. Pitney was victorious in this 1889 race. In the legislature, he took on the role of party floor leader; after the 1900 election swayed body control to the Republicans, Pitney became Senate President.
Despite Pitney’s desire to become the state’s chief executive, Governor Foster M. Voorhees supported a different candidate as his successor. In 1901 Voorhees offered Pitney a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court, which rid Voorhees of a political rival while maintaining party unity. Seven years later, Pitney was elevated to the role of Chancellor of New Jersey, a unique judicial position under the state's 1844 constitution.
Supreme Court of the United States
Pitney was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft in 1912. Although confirmed by a 50–26 vote of the Senate, his nomination was opposed by progressives. This hostility was particularly due to his decision while serving as chancellor in Jones Glass Co. v. Glass Bottle Blowers Association, which limited the ability of unions to prevent their employers from using strikebreakers.
During his time on the court, Pitney developed a relatively conservative reputation and was an adherent of the judicial philosophy of substantive due process. This belief was exemplified in his majority opinion in Coppage v. Kansas, where, in ruling unconstitutional a Kansas statute banning anti-union yellow-dog contracts, the court stated that police power could not be legitimately utilized to ensure equality of bargaining power. Although distrustful of unions, Pitney also feared the rampant expansion of business and supported a broader use of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Justice Pitney authored the majority opinion in New York Central Railroad Co. v. White, which upheld a New York state workman's compensation law and laid the foundation for the expansion of these programs nationwide. He also wrote the controversial majority opinion in Frank v. Mangum, which upheld the wrongful 1915 murder conviction of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman, in Atlanta, Georgia, over the dissents of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes.
Pitney resigned from the court in 1922 after suffering a stroke. Alongside Willis Van Devanter, Pitney was one of only two Supreme Court Justices nominated by President Taft who also later served during Taft's tenure as Chief Justice.
When asked which twentieth-century Supreme Court justice "has done the most to protect the core Constitutional values," Richard Epstein cited Justice Pitney, calling him "a great justice" and "the only consistent near-libertarian on the Supreme Court."
- "Federal Judicial Center: Mahlon Pitney". 2009-12-12. Archived from the original on 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-12-12.
- "Pitney, Mahlon at the Federal Judicial Register". www.fjc.gov. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
- Ancestry of Christopher Reeve. William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services. Accessed September 23, 2007.
- Law Talk Episode 37: Recess Appointments 2/3/2013[permanent dead link]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mahlon Pitney.|
- Oyez.com biography for Mahlon Pitney
- Supreme Court Justices: Mahlon Pitney (1858-1924)
- History of Morris County New Jersey, Volume II
- Facts on File biography for Mahlon Pitney
- United States Congress. "Mahlon Pitney (id: P000370)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Mahlon Pitney at The Political Graveyard
- Mahlon Pitney at Find a Grave
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th congressional district
| President of the New Jersey Senate
C. Asa Francis
| Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States