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David Brewer

Supreme Court Justice

David J. Brewer

David Josiah Brewer was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor (now Turkey), on January 20, 1837, the son of missionaries, and grew up in Connecticut. He attended Wesleyan University and then Yale University, graduating from the latter in 1856. He then read law for a year before entering Albany Law School, from which he graduated in 1858.

Upon receiving his law degree, Brewer moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he established a law practice. His lengthy judicial career began in 1861, when he was named Commissioner of the Federal Circuit Court in Leavenworth. He held two other judgeships before being elected to the Kansas Supreme Court in 1870, where he served for 14 years. He was named to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 1884, and appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889, where he served until his death.

An active member of the Court, Brewer was a major contributor to the doctrine of substantive due process, often voting with the court's majority in striking down laws restricting property rights. He also wrote the unanimous opinion of the Court in Muller v. Oregon (1908), which upheld the constitutionality of a law limiting working hours for women in industry.

Between 1895 and 1897, Brewer led the panel that settled the Venezuela-British Guiana boundary dispute.

Brewer died of a heart attack in Washington, D. C., on March 28, 1910. He is interred in Leavenworth.

Brewer was the author of three books: The Pew for the Pulpit (1897), American Citizenship (1902), and The Mission of the United States in the Cause of Peace (1909). In addition, a series of three lectures by him were published in 1905 under the title The United States: A Christian Nation.

Yale University
President Benjamin Harrison

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This page was last updated on June 28, 2018.