Justice George Shiras, Jr.

Justice George Shiras, Jr. joined the U.S. Supreme Court on October 10, 1892, replacing Justice Joseph Bradley. Shiras was born on January 26, 1832 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He initially studied at Ohio University, but he eventually transferred to Yale, from which he graduated in 1853. Shiras attended law school at Yale but did not receive a law degree there. Instead, he returned to Pittsburgh to read law and was admitted to the bar in 1855.

Shiras then entered private practice, mostly in Pittsburgh after a few early years in Iowa. He served as a presidential elector in 1888. On July 19, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison nominated Shiras to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on July 26, and he took the judicial oath in the fall.

Shiras spent about a decade on the Court, attracting little attention. Some have speculated that his vote was decisive in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co., a case that struck down a federal income tax. However, many scholars have questioned this view, and the Sixteenth Amendment superseded the decision less than 20 years later. Shiras also wrote for the Court in an early decision involving the rights of resident foreign nationals in the U.S., finding that they are entitled to due process despite their lack of citizenship.

Shiras retired from the Supreme Court on February 23, 1903 and was replaced by Justice William Rufus Day. He died on August 2, 1924 in Pittsburgh.

Selected Opinions by Justice Shiras:

Wong Wing v. U.S. (1896)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

All persons within the territory of the U.S. are entitled to the protections of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Foreign nationals cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor may they be held to answer for a “capital or other infamous crime” unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.