Shiras, George, Jr. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Shiras is remembered as an impartial Supreme Court judge and an independent thinker. Generally, he defended civil liberties, upheld the right of states to regulate business, and voted against the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

Shiras studied law at Yale and in a Pittsburgh law office and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1855. Representing local railroad, banking, oil, coal, and iron interests, he earned a reputation as an extremely capable corporation lawyer. In 1881 he turned down an offer from the state legislature to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate.Harrison, Benjamin;nominations to the Court

George Shiras, Jr.

(Library of Congress)

Although lacking experience in public service, Shiras was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892. As a justice, Shiras typically voted to uphold government regulation against challenges from the states but supported challenges to new extensions of national power. In many cases, Shiras voted to restrict the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890). He is best remembered for his apparent change of opinion in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.[case]Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.[Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.] (1895). Initially, the decision was five to four in favor of the constitutionality of the 1894 income tax law, but after reargument, one justice changed his mind, making the statute unconstitutional. For many years, Shiras was credited with changing his vote, but in 1928 Justice Charles Evans Hughes suggested that it was not Shiras who provided the crucial vote.

Administrative law

Hughes, Charles Evans

Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.

Sherman Antitrust Act

Categories: History