George MacKinnon

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George MacKinnon
Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review
In office
May 19, 1979 – May 18, 1982
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by John Field
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
May 6, 1969 – May 20, 1983
Appointed by Richard Nixon
Preceded by Charles Fahy
Succeeded by Ken Starr
United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota
In office
Appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Fallon Kelly
Succeeded by Phillip Neville
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949
Preceded by William Gallagher
Succeeded by Roy Wier
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 29th district
In office
January 8, 1935 – January 4, 1943
Preceded by Burton Kingsley
Succeeded by Carl Wegner
Personal details
Born George Edwards MacKinnon
(1906-04-22)April 22, 1906
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died May 1, 1995(1995-05-01) (aged 89)
Potomac, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Valentine Davis
Education University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1946
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Commander

George Edward MacKinnon (April 22, 1906 – May 1, 1995) was appointed by President Nixon to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in May 1969, where he served until his death in 1995. Judge MacKinnon is also the father of feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon.

According to Judge Harry T. Edwards, Judge MacKinnon was "a real character: he was someone who was not easily dissuaded from his positions, who always aimed to get his way, and, yet, who always enjoyed his colleagues and fostered collegiality on the court."[1] Chief Justice Warren Burger, a fellow Minnesotan who appointed MacKinnon to the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the special court division that selected independent counsel, said, "He's a man who can't be frightened or pushed by anybody" when describing him.[2]

Judge MacKinnon was also known as a conservative and once described as "so far right he makes Goldwater look like George McGovern," although this may have been hyperbole.[3]

Thomas J. Campbell, who once worked as a clerk for Judge MacKinnon, has written:

Judge MacKinnon inspired by words. He inspired by his life's deeds. But he inspired most of all by what came to him, naturally. That he'd always introduce himself as George, not Judge. That he would call his wife on his private phone line, so that the government would not have to pay whatever marginal cost one phone call might represent. That he would answer his own phone with such alacrity that clerk or secretary would have to scramble to pick it up on the first ring. That he presided at the marriage, in chambers, of a man he had once prosecuted, convicted, and sent away to prison as U.S. Attorney. That he was loved by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and sought the approval of neither to find his own sense of worth.[1]

Place of birth, education and early legislative experience[edit]

MacKinnon was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1906, the son of James Alexander Wiley and Cora Blanche (Asselstine) MacKinnon.

MacKinnon attended the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1923–1924 and received his LL.B. with honors from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1929. During this time, he also won an All-American rating as center on the Minnesota football teams of 1925–1927, and the Western Conference Medal of 1929.

After graduating MacKinnon was assistant general counsel for the Investor's Syndicate (later known as the Investors Diversified Services) from 1929 to 1942. During this time, he was also a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the 29th District (1935–1942) and he served on the Rules Committee and as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He authored and help led the enactment of the 1939 Minnesota State Reorganization Act, and drafted the state Civil Service Law of 1939 and the state Old Age Assistance Law of 1936.

He married Elizabeth Valentine Davis August 20, 1938.

An officer in the U.S. Navy and elected to Congress[edit]

MacKinnon served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946. MacKinnon volunteered for duty and spent his four years with the Atlantic Fleet Air Force, during which time he earned a citation for meritorious services. He was discharged a commander.

MacKinnon was elected as a Republican to serve as a United States Representative for the Third District of Minnesota to the 80th congress (January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949), but was defeated when he sought re-election. He served on the Education and Labor Committee.

U.S. Attorney and Republican nominee for Governor[edit]

From 1953 to 1958, MacKinnon served as United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota. MacKinnon successfully prosecuted the first labor case under the Taft-Hartley Act against Archer Daniels Midland, Gerald Connelly, and Sidney Brennan in United States v. Gerald Connelly. It was one of the most famous labor racketeering cases in the country.

MacKinnon resigned from the U.S. Attorney's office in June 1958 to run as the Republican nominee for Governor of Minnesota and lost the general election to Orville Freeman.

MacKinnon then served as Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General from 1960–1961. During 1960 MacKinnon focused on labor racketeering investigations involving James Hoffa. MacKinnon started the Test Fleet investigation that led to James Hoffa's conviction for perjury.

He was Chief Counsel for Investors Mutual Funds from 1961–1969.

Appointment as federal judge[edit]

In 1969, President Nixon appointed MacKinnon to the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. MacKinnon took senior judge status in May 1983.

During his time as a federal judge he also served as: Presiding Judge for the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (1979–1982), Presiding Judge for the Special Division of U.S. Court of Appeals for Appointment of Independent Counsels (1985–1992), as a Delegate to the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (1985), and as a member on the United States Sentencing Commission (1985–1991).


Specific references
  1. ^ a b Harry T. Edwards, In Memoriam: George E. MacKinnon, 64 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 819, 820-21 (1996)
  2. ^ Ann Pelham, "Judge MacKinnon Works Two Odd Jobs at the Edges of Constitutionality," Legal Times at 15 (May 7, 1990).
  3. ^ Donald Dale Jackson, Judges 313 (1974).
Other sources

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Gallagher
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Roy Wier
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ancher Nelsen
Republican nominee for Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
Elmer Andersen
Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles Fahy
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
Ken Starr
New seat Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review
Succeeded by
John Field