Justice Stanley Matthews

Justice Stanley Matthews joined the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1881, replacing Justice Noah Haynes Swayne. Matthews was born on July 21, 1824 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1840. He studied law in Cincinnati and then briefly lived in Tennessee, where he could practice law before turning 21. However, Matthews soon returned to Cincinnati and was admitted to the Ohio bar when he reached the eligible age. He served as a judge of the Ohio Court of Common Pleas from 1851 to 1853. Matthews also spent time in the Ohio legislature later in the 1850s.

From 1858 to 1861, Matthews served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. He left that position to join the Union Army during the first half of the Civil War. However, he resigned from the army in 1863 to become a judge on the Ohio Superior Court, where he spent the next two years. Matthews then returned to private practice. After the disputed presidential election of 1876, he represented Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes (a fellow Kenyon graduate) before the electoral commission assembled by Congress, which eventually gave Hayes the Presidency. Matthews then served in the U.S. Senate from 1877 to 1879, completing the term of a Senator who had resigned.

On January 26, 1881, President Hayes nominated Matthews to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate took no action on the nomination. On March 14, however, new President James Garfield nominated Matthews again. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported his nomination unfavorably, but the full Senate confirmed him on May 12 in a 24-23 vote. He remains the only Justice who has ever been confirmed by a one-vote margin. Matthews took the judicial oath five days later.

After his arduous route to the Court, Matthews spent less than eight years there. He is probably best known for his opinion in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, an early immigration case. Matthews wrote for a unanimous Court in finding that resident foreign nationals are entitled to equal protection. The decision also stands for the principle that discriminatory enforcement of a neutral law violates the Constitution.

Matthews died on March 22, 1889 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in Cincinnati. Justice David Josiah Brewer replaced him on the Court.

Selected Opinions by Justice Matthews:

Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The Fourteenth Amendment extends to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. Thus, foreign nationals who have the right to temporarily or permanently reside in the U.S. are entitled to equal protection.