Moody, William H. (1853–1917)

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MOODY, WILLIAM H. (1853–1917)

After studying law in the offices of novelist-lawyer Richard Henry Dana, William Henry Moody of Massachusetts first came to national attention as a special prosecutor in the Fall River ax-murder case of Lizzie Borden (1892). In 1895 he went to Congress where he served as a Republican until President theodore roosevelt appointed him secretary of the navy in 1902. When philander c. knox left the administration for the Senate in 1904, Moody replaced him as attorney general. Philosophically comfortable with the President, Moody spent much of his tenure directing the prosecution of the Beef Trust. Although Knox had begun the case, Moody successfully argued swift & company v. united states (1905) before the Supreme Court, helping to lay the basis for the stream of commerce doctrine. As attorney general, Moody directed active participation by the Department of Justice in many facets of national economic regulation, from antitrust proceedings to railroad regulation under the elkins act.

Roosevelt rewarded Moody's service and his commitment to a strong national government by appointing him to succeed Justice henry b. brown on the Supreme Court in 1906. Although Moody's service on the Court formally lasted until 1910, he was rarely present the last two years. Moody took part in relatively few cases during his tenure, but his opinions fulfilled Roosevelt's expectations and reflected Moody's moderate progressivism. As a Justice, Moody continued his support of regulatory legislation, often voting with the Court to extend or strengthen federal authority. Moody joined the majority in loewe v. lawlor (1908), holding that the sherman antitrust act covered labor boycotts, and he wrote for the dissenters in the first employers ' liability cases (1908), asserting that Congress had power to regulate employer-employee relations in interstate commerce issues. Although that dissent typified Moody's willingness to expand the reach of federal powers, he also supported exercises of state police power when they worked no interference with federal powers. An adherent of judicial self-restraint, Moody opposed judicial legislation and he silently concurred in muller v. oregon (1908), in which the brandeis brief offered convincing evidence to the Court of the benefits of maximum hours legislation. In twining v. new jersey (1908), perhaps his best-known opinion, Moody, for the Court, declared that the right against self-incrimination was not an "essential element" of due process of law incorporated in the fourteenth amendment and applicable to the states. If the people of the state were dissatisfied with the law, he declared, recourse "is in their own hands."

Stricken with acute rheumatism, Moody retired in 1910 and died, a semi-invalid, seven years later.

David Gordon