Lamar, Joseph R. (1857–1916)

Author:David Gordon

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Joseph Rucker Lamar, "an old-fashioned southern gentleman," served on the Supreme Court from 1911 until his death in 1916. As a Justice, Lamar approved the received doctrines of the time such as FREEDOM OF CONTRACT and AFFECTATION WITH A PUBLIC INTEREST. Lamar had been a leading Georgia attorney and had served as a state legislator and member of the Georgia Supreme Court (1903?1905) before his appointment to the Court. He was the fourth of President WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT'S appointees and replaced EDWARD D. WHITE, whom Taft had promoted from Associate to Chief Justice.

Lamar joined a Court that included Justices OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES and JOHN MARSHALL HARLAN, leaning to the progressive side. Lamar usually voted with the majority of the Court; he wrote only eight dissents in four years, and one writer counted agreement in 150 of 154 cases sustaining exercise of STATE POLICE POWER and in 71 of 74 cases striking down such legislation. Lamar's apparent conciliation should not be taken to indicate disinterested acquiescence. In UNITED STATES V. GRIMAUD (1911) Lamar substantially strengthened the force of administrative rulings. Grimaud placed the law squarely behind such rulings; Lamar denied that administrative decisions constituted legislative DELEGATIONS OF POWER, and he upheld Congress's right to punish violations as criminal acts if it chose. Although he sometimes supported CIVIL RIGHTS,

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his most famous opinion came in a labor case: GOMPERS V. BUCK ' S STOVE AND RANGE COMPANY (1911). Writing for a unanimous Court, Lamar declared that a secondary boycott constituted an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade which could be forbidden by INJUNCTION. He rejected the union's claim of FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Lamar served on the WHITE COURT, a Court that increasingly favored propertied interests. His lack of imagination and creativity were likely seen as virtues by his contemporaries, characteristics of a man...

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