Ward Hunt

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Ward Hunt
Ward Hunt - Brady-Handy.jpg
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
In office
December 11, 1872[1] – January 27, 1882
Nominated by Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Samuel Nelson
Succeeded by Samuel Blatchford
Personal details
Born (1810-06-14)June 14, 1810
Utica, New York, US
Died March 24, 1886(1886-03-24) (aged 75)
Washington, D.C.

Ward Hunt (June 14, 1810 – March 24, 1886), was an American jurist and politician. He was Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals from 1868 to 1869, and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1872 to 1882.

Life[edit]

He was the son of Montgomery Hunt, long-time Cashier of the Bank of Utica. He was a classmate of Horatio Seymour at the Oxford and Geneva Academies, and graduated from Union College in 1828, where he was an early member of the Kappa Alpha Society. Then he studied law with Juge James Gould at Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut and with Hiram Denio in Utica, and was admitted to the bar in 1831.

He was a Democratic member from Oneida County of the New York State Assembly in 1839, and was Mayor of Utica in 1844. In 1848, he joined the Free Soil Party, and in 1855 he was among the founders of the New York Republican Party. He remained in private practice until 1865, when he was elected to an eight-year term on the New York Court of Appeals on the Republican ticket, to succeed to the seat held by his former law teacher and partner Hiram Denio. Hunt became Chief Judge in 1868 after the sudden death of Chief Judge William B. Wright. In 1870, he was legislated out of office, but was appointed one of the Commissioners of Appeals.

Hunt was a friend and patron of political boss Roscoe Conkling, who was an associate of President Ulysses S. Grant. When Samuel Nelson retired from the Supreme Court, Conkling asked Grant to nominate Hunt for the vacancy. Hunt was nominated on December 3, 1872, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 11, and took his seat in January 1873.

Hunt had little impact on the court, siding with the majority in all but 22 cases in his ten years on the job and writing only four dissenting opinions. His most notable contribution came while riding circuit in New York, where he presided over The United States v. Susan B. Anthony. Citing the 14th Amendment, Anthony argued that she was constitutionally guaranteed the right to vote and had not broken the law when she voted in the 1872 election. Justice Hunt refused to allow Anthony to testify on her own behalf, allowed statements given by her at the time of her arrest to be allowed as "testimony," explicitly ordered the jury to return a guilty verdict, refused to poll the jury afterwards, and read an opinion he had written before the trial even started. Hunt found that Anthony had indeed broken the law and fined Anthony $100 (which she refused to pay).[2]

In 1878, Hunt suffered a severe paralyzing stroke, which prevented him from attending court sessions or rendering opinions. Nonetheless he did not retire, because at the time in order to retire with a full pension a person had to put in at least ten years of government service and a minimum age of 70. To encourage him to retire, Congress passed a special provision under which he could receive a pension if he would retire within 30 days. Hunt did so on January 27, 1882, and enjoyed his pension until his death in Washington, D.C., four years later. He was buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica.

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Legal offices
Preceded by
William B. Wright
Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
1868 - 1869
Succeeded by
Robert Earl
Preceded by
Samuel Nelson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1872 - 1882
Succeeded by
Samuel Blatchford