Justice Mahlon Pitney

Justice Mahlon Pitney joined the U.S. Supreme Court on March 18, 1912, replacing Justice John Marshall Harlan. Pitney was born on February 5, 1858 in Morristown, New Jersey. He graduated in 1879 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1882. He practiced law for about a decade before pursuing public office.

Pitney was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1894 and would serve there for nearly four years. He resigned to serve on the New Jersey Senate. Pitney aimed to become Governor of New Jersey eventually, but instead he received a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court from Governor Foster M. Voorhees in 1901. After seven years in that role, he became Chancellor of New Jersey.

On February 19, 1912, President William Howard Taft nominated Pitney to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Taft would later become Chief Justice while Pitney was still on the Court.) The Senate confirmed him on March 13 in a 50-26 vote, and he took the judicial oath five days later. Pitney generally voiced conservative views on the Court, frequently ruling against labor unions and taking a narrow view of free speech protections under the First Amendment. However, he also upheld a workers’ compensation law against a constitutional challenge.

Pitney resigned from the Supreme Court on December 31, 1922 and was replaced by Justice Edward Terry Sanford. He died on December 9, 1924 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in his hometown in New Jersey.

Selected Opinions by Justice Pitney:

Eisner v. Macomber (1920)

Topic: Taxes

Income may be defined as the gain derived from capital, from labor, or from both combined, including profit gained through sale or conversion of capital.

International News Service v. Associated Press (1918)

Topic: Copyrights

One who gathers news at pains and expense, for the purpose of lucrative publication, may be said to have a quasi-property in the results of their enterprise as against a rival in the same business, and the appropriation of those results at the expense and to the damage of one and for the profit of the other is unfair competition, against which equity will afford relief.