Erskine Mayo Ross

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Erskine Mayo Ross
Erskine Mayo Ross 1903.jpg
Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
February 22, 1895 – May 31, 1925
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Wallace McCamant
Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California
In office
January 13, 1887 – March 5, 1895
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Olin Wellborn
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
January 5, 1880 – October 1, 1886
Preceded by Elections under new constitution of 1879
Succeeded by Jackson Temple
Personal details
Born (1845-06-30)June 30, 1845
Belpre, Culpeper County, Virginia, U.S.
Died December 10, 1928(1928-12-10) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ynez Hannah Bettis (m. 1874; death 1907)
Ida Haraszphy Hancock (m. 1909)
Known for founder, Alpha Tau Omega

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 Culpeper County.[1] He attended the Virginia Military Institute, leaving school twice during the Civil War to assist the Confederate States Army and then returning for further training, graduating in 1864.[2][3]

Legal and judicial 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.[3]

In October 1879, when adoption of a new constitution required elections for all court seats, he was elected to the Supreme Court of California and began his term on January 5, 1880.[4][5] A Democrat, he was elected at age 34 without having served on the bench of any lower court.[6] The newly elected justices drew lots to determine their length of term, and both he and John Sharpstein drew three-year terms.[7][8] In October 1882, Ross was re-elected on the Democratic ticket along with Sharpstein to a 12-year term on the high court.[9] In November 1885, he announced his plans to resign to return to private practice with law partner Stephen M. White effective January 1, 1886.[10] Instead, Ross delayed his resignation and stayed on the court until October 1, 1886.[11]

On December 16, 1886, Ross was nominated to a newly created position on the United States District Court for the Southern District of California by United States President Grover Cleveland.[12] 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.[5][13]

Bequest creating Ross Essay Contest[edit]

In his will, Ross bequeathed $100,000 to endow an essay contest administered by the American Bar Association.[14] The essay contest spawned a well-known tax case, in which a winner avoided paying income tax on his prize money.[15] Congress later amended the tax code so that such winnings would be taxed.[16] 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.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Ross married twice. On May 7, 1874, he wed Inez Hannah Bettis. In 1875, they had one son, Robert Erskine Ross. Inez died December 12, 1907, and in June 1909 Ross remarried to Ida Haraszphy Hancock, a wealthy widow in Los Angeles.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, J. Edward (1963). History of the California Supreme Court: The Justices 1850-1900, vol 1 (PDF). San Francisco, CA: Bender Moss Co. p. 131-133. Retrieved August 14, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Minister Denby Breakfasted". Daily Alta California (39 (12938)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 16 August 1885. p. 8. Retrieved August 19, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Oscar T. Shuck, History of the Bench and Bar of California, page 657.
  4. ^ "Official Returns of the Election". Sacramento Daily Union (8 (191)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 20 October 1879. p. 2. Retrieved July 21, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b "Bio of Ross, Erskine May". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved July 4, 2017. 
  6. ^ "The State Government, Associate Justices". Sacramento daily record-union. Library of Congress Historic Newspapers. January 10, 1880. p. 3. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  7. ^ "The New State Supreme Court". Sacramento Daily Record-Union. Library of Congress Historic Newspapers. January 6, 1880. p. 1. Retrieved August 16, 2017. 
  8. ^ "The Courts, Supreme Court". Sacramento daily record-union. Library of Congress Historic Newspapers. January 13, 1880. p. 2. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Democratic State Ticket". Los Angeles Herald (41). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 10 October 1882. p. 2. Retrieved August 19, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Brief Notes". Sacramento Daily Union (54 (86)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 30 November 1885. p. 3. Retrieved August 19, 2017. Erskine M. Ross, of the Supreme Court, has made up his mind to resign, and will send his resignation to the Governor in a day or two, to take effect January 1, 1886. 
  11. ^ "Judge Ross Resigns Again". Daily Alta California (41 (13469)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 13 July 1886. p. 5. Retrieved August 19, 2017. Governor Stoneman...says Ross is the great American resigner, this being the third resignation he has sent in. 
  12. ^ "Ross and Brooks". Los Angeles Herald (26 (71)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 24 December 1886. p. 1. Retrieved August 19, 2017. Judge Ross resigned from the Supreme Court a short time ago, and resumed the practice of law as a partner of Hon. Stephen M. White. 
  13. ^ "Judge Ross, Aged 70, 35 Years on Bench". Los Angeles Herald (210). California Digital Newspaper Collection. July 3, 2015. Retrieved July 4, 2017. 
  14. ^ See Bruce I. Kogan, The Taxation of Prizes and Awards---Tax Policy Winners and Losers, 63 Wash. L. Rev. 257, 263 n. 40 (1988).
  15. ^ See McDermott v. Commissioner, 150 F.2d 585 (D.C. Cir. 1945).
  16. ^ See Kogan, supra, at footnote 77 and accompanying text.
  17. ^ "Michigan lawyer wins inaugural ABA Journal/Ross Contest for Short Fiction". ABA Journal. August 3, 2013. Retrieved July 4, 2017. The cash prize is made possible by a trust from the estate of Judge Erskine M. Ross of Los Angeles. 
  18. ^ "Judge of the Circuit Court Takes a Bride, Erskine Mayo Ross Weds Mrs. Hancock". Los Angeles Herald (36 (244)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 2 June 1909. Retrieved July 4, 2017. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


Legal offices
Preceded by
Elections under new constitution of 1879
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
1880–1887
Succeeded by
Jackson Temple
Preceded by
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California
1887–1895
Succeeded by
Olin Wellborn
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
1895–1925
Succeeded by
Wallace McCamant