Sutherland, George (1862–1942)

Author:J. Francis Paschal

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George Sutherland, Supreme Court Justice from 1922 to 1938, was born in England in 1862. A year thereafter, he was brought by his parents to Brigham Young's Utah. Although he himself was never a Mormon, Sutherland attended a Mormon academy; in 1882?1883, he studied at the law school at the University of Michigan. On leaving the university, Sutherland was admitted to the Utah bar. He attained immediate prominence, both professionally and politically. He was elected to the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES as a Republican in 1900 and to the SENATE in 1905, where he remained until 1917.

Sutherland's tenure in Congress forced him to confront issues in a political context that he would later deal with as a Supreme Court Justice. Generally he supported a conservative position. Yet his most enduring legislative achievements centered on improving conditions for seamen; advancing a federal WORKER ' S COMPENSATION program; and promoting woman suffrage. Sutherland's congressional tenure enabled him as early as 1910 to establish his credentials for appointment to the Supreme Court. The 1920 election of Warren Harding, attributed in considerable part to Sutherland in his role of principal confidential adviser to the candidate, virtually assured him the

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nomination. The nomination was sent to an approving Senate on September 5, 1922.

Anyone interested in the new Justice's approach to legal and political problems had not far to look. In the five years since his retirement from the Senate, Sutherland had delivered major addresses setting forth his conservative philosophy. In his presidential address to the American Bar Association in 1917, he chose to speak on "Private Rights and Government Control." The message was clear. "Prying Commissions" and "governmental intermeddling" were unnecessary and at war with the "fundamental principle upon which our form of government depends, namely, that it is an empire of laws and not of men." Four years later Sutherland was telling the New York State Bar Association "that government should confine its activities, as a general rule, to preserving a free market and preventing fraud." He further explained that "fundamental social and economic laws" were beyond the "power of official control."

Once on the Court, Sutherland readily joined his conservative colleagues invoking SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS to strike down exertions of governmental power. His first major opinion, in ADKINS V. CHILDREN...

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