Erskine Mayo Ross

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Erskine Mayo Ross
Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
February 22, 1895 – December 10, 1928
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Wallace McCamant
Judge for the Southern District of California
In office
January 13, 1887 – March 5, 1895
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by new position
Personal details
Born June 30, 1845
Belpre, Virginia
Died December 10, 1928(1928-12-10) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ynez Bettis

Erskine Mayo Ross (June 30, 1845 – December 10, 1928) was an American attorney and jurist from California. He served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in from 1895 until 1928, having assumed senior status in 1925. A native of Virginia, previously he was a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California and the Supreme Court of California. He is also one of the three founding fathers of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

Early life[edit]

Erskine M. Ross was born in Belpre, Virginia on June 30, 1845, in Culpepper County. He attended the Virginia Military Institute, leaving school twice during the Civil War to assist the Confederate Army and then returning for further training, graduating in 1865.[1]

Legal Career in California[edit]

In 1868, he moved to Los Angeles, California, and joined the law office of his uncle, Cameron E. Thom, a prominent lawyer and former state senator who would later serve as Mayor of Los Angeles. After studying law at Thom's office for two years, Ross was admitted to the bar of the district court. In 1875 he joined the bar of the state supreme court, having already become wealthy and famous through his partnership with his uncle.[2]

Judicial Service[edit]

In 1888, he was elected to the Supreme Court of California. A Democrat, he was elected at age 34 without having served on the bench of any lower court. Ross was nominated on December 16, 1886 to a newly created position on the United States District Court for the Southern District of California by United States President Grover Cleveland.

The United States Senate confirmed him for the seat on January 13, 1887, and he received his federal court commission that same day. He served on that court for eight years. Ross was nominated on February 19, 1895 to a newly created position on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by Grover Cleveland, and he was confirmed and received his commission on February 22, 1895. He assumed senior status on May 31, 1925 and served until his death on December 10, 1928.[3]

Bequest Creating Ross Essay Contest[edit]

In his will, Ross bequeathed $100,000 to endow an essay contest administered by the American Bar Association.[4] The essay contest spawned a well-known tax case, in which a winner avoided paying income tax on his prize money.[5] Congress later amended the tax code so that such winnings would be taxed.[6] The topic for the 2009 Ross Essay Contest is Write an open letter to the new president and Congress describing the most important priority for improving the U.S. justice system.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oscar T. Shuck, History of the Bench and Bar of California, page 657.
  2. ^ Id.
  3. ^ http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=2058
  4. ^ See Bruce I. Kogan, The Taxation of Prizes and Awards---Tax Policy Winners and Losers, 63 Wash. L. Rev. 257, 263 n. 40 (1988).
  5. ^ See McDermott v. Commissioner, 150 F.2d 585 (D.C. Cir. 1945).
  6. ^ See Kogan, supra, at footnote 77 and accompanying text.
  7. ^ http://abajournal.com/ross
  • Shuck, Oscar T. (1901). History of the Bench and Bar of California, being Biographies of many Remarkable Men, a Store of Humorous and Pathetic Recollections, Accounts of Important Legislation and Extraordinary Cases, Compehending the Judicial History of the State. Los Angeles, California: The Commercial Printing House. 
  • Frederick, David C. (1994). Rugged Justice: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the American West, 1891-1941. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-08381-4. 

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