A lawyer who handled international affairs, Butler initially was pleased with his position as Supreme Court reporter but later found it somewhat boring.
Butler attended Princeton University but left before graduating. He studied law in his father’s office, was admitted to the New York bar in 1882, and practiced law in New York in 1902. In 1898 he was a legal expert for the Fairbanks-Herschell Commission, which fixed the permanent boundary between Alaska and Canada. In December, 1901, Butler represented claimants before the Spanish Treaty Claims Commission on the responsibility of Spain for the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor and the assumption of the United States of Spain’s pecuniary liability for the injuries to, and death of, her officers and crew.
In 1902 Butler was appointed reporter of decisions for the Supreme Court; he produced volumes 187 to 241 of the United States Reports. However, his attitude toward the position evolved from enthusiasm in the beginning to a later sense that the reporter’s job was monotonous and obscure. While Supreme Court reporter, Butler was appointed a delegate to the Hague Peace Conference in 1907 that dealt with international arbitration. He resigned from the Court in 1916 and practiced law in Washington, D.C., until his death.
Butler’s publications include Our Treaty with Spain: Triumphant Diplomacy (1898), Freedom of Private Property on the Sea from Capture During the War (1899), Treaty Making Power of the United States (1902), Index Digest of Opinions Delivered and Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States During October Terms 1902, 1904 and 1905 and Reported in Volumes 187-202 Inclusive, United States Reports with a Table of Cases (1906), and A Century at the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States (1942).
Reporters, Supreme Court
Reporting of opinions
United States Reports