Moody, William H. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During Moody’s relatively brief tenure on the Supreme Court, he was a voice for Progressive reform and a dissenter against conservative interpretations of the regulatory power of the federal government.

Moody came from an old New England family and was educated at Phillips Academy, Andover, and Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1876. He attended Harvard Law School briefly and then read law with Richard Henry Dana, Jr., until he was admitted to the bar in 1878. Moody practiced in Essex County. He became district attorney for the Eastern District of the state in 1890 and was recruited as part of the prosecution in the murder trial of Lizzie Borden. Moody was elected to Congress in 1895 and was reelected three times.ProgressivismRoosevelt, Theodore;nominations to the CourtProgressivism

By 1902 Moody had become a leading member of the House of Representatives, and President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as secretary of the navy that same year. The two men worked well together, and Moody was named attorney general when Philander C. Knox resigned in 1904. Moody argued the case of Swift and Co. v. United States[case]Swift and Co. v. United States[Swift and Co. v. United States] (1905) in which he advanced an expansive view of the government’s power over interstate commerce.Interstate commerce Moody was also deeply involved in the negotiations that led to the passage of the Hepburn Act to regulate railroads in 1906.

When Justice Henry B. Brown retired in 1906, Roosevelt wanted a progressive successor on the Supreme Court, and he n4ominated Moody with the expectation that the new justice would advance the president’s antitrust policies and commitment to regulation. Moody received prompt Senate confirmation and was sworn in on December 17, 1906.

Moody lived up to Roosevelt’s expectations, but his stay on the Court was all too brief. When the Court struck down the Employer’s Liability Act in 1908 because it allegedly involved the regulation of intrastate as well as interstate commerce, Moody contended that the power of Congress to oversee interstate commerce extended to the relationship between employers and employees. Before Moody could make an indelible mark on the Court’s deliberations, however, he was stricken with rheumatism and could not continue his work. By October, 1910, it was evident that he would have to leave the bench. Congress passed a special law to allow him the retirementResignation and retirement privileges of justices who had served at least ten years. His previous service in the House made enactment of this law much easier. He resigned on November 20, 1910, and President William H. Taft named his successor. Moody, who never married, died in Haverhill, Massachusetts, on July 2, 1917. Because of his disability, Moody became one of the great might-have-beens of Supreme Court history. His nationalism, sympathy with reform, and tolerance for regulatory power might have helped take the Court in a more progressive direction had illness not tragically limited his years of influence and service.Moody, William H.

Further Reading
  • Bader, William H., and Roy M. Mersky, eds. The First One Hundred Eight Justices. Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein, 2004.
  • Bickel, Alexander M., and Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. The Judiciary and Responsible Government, 1910-1921. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
  • Ely, James W., Jr. The Fuller Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2003.
  • Friedman, Leon, and Fred Israel, eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. 5 vols. New York: Chelsea House, 1997.

Antitrust law

Brown, Henry B.

Disability of justices

Taft, William H.

Categories: History Content