Justice William Henry Moody

Justice William Henry Moody joined the U.S. Supreme Court on December 17, 1906, replacing Justice Henry Billings Brown. Moody was born on December 23, 1853 in northeastern Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1876 and briefly attended Harvard Law School afterward. Moody then studied law at the office of Richard Henry Dana, Jr., the author of Two Years Before the Mast. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1878.

Moody entered legal practice in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he was elected as the city attorney in 1888. Two years later, he became the District Attorney for the Eastern District of Massachusetts. In 1895, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill a vacancy, and he would be reelected to three more terms there. President Theodore Roosevelt then appointed Moody as U.S. Secretary of the Navy in 1902. After two years in that role, Roosevelt appointed him as U.S. Attorney General.

On December 3, 1906, Roosevelt nominated Moody to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on December 12, and he took the judicial oath five days later. He spent just under four years on the Court, struggling with severe rheumatism toward the end of his tenure.

Moody is probably best remembered for his contribution to civil procedure in Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Mottley. This addressed the scope of federal question jurisdiction, which is a basis for a federal court to hear a lawsuit. Moody wrote for the Court in holding that federal question jurisdiction cannot be based on an alleged anticipated defense.

Moody retired on November 20, 1910 and was replaced by Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar. He received full retirement benefits due to a Special Act that President William Taft persuaded Congress to pass. Moody spent the rest of his life in Haverhill, where he died on July 2, 1917.

Selected Opinions by Justice Moody:

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley (1908)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A lawsuit arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States only when the plaintiff's statement of their own cause of action shows that it is based on those laws or that Constitution. It is not enough that the plaintiff alleges some anticipated defense to their cause of action and asserts that the defense is invalidated by a constitutional provision.

Londoner v. Denver (1908)

Topic: Government Agencies

When the legislature commits the determination of the tax to a subordinate body, due process requires that a taxpayer be afforded a hearing, of which they must have notice. When the taxpayer has no right to object to an assessment in court, they must have the opportunity to support their objections by argument and proof at some time and place.