George Weston Anderson

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George Weston Anderson
George Weston Anderson in 1916.jpg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
In office
Preceded by Frederic Dodge
Succeeded by James Madison Morton, Jr.
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
In office
Preceded by Asa P. French
Succeeded by Thomas J. Boynton
Personal details
Born (1861-09-01)September 1, 1861
Acworth, New Hampshire
Died February 14, 1938(1938-02-14) (aged 76)
DeLand, Florida
Nationality American
Education Williams College
Boston University School of Law
Occupation Lawyer, judge

George Weston Anderson (September 1, 1861 – February 14, 1938) was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.[1]


He was born on a farm in Acworth, New Hampshire on September 1, 1861.[1] Anderson received an A.B. with honors from Williams College in 1886 and an LL.B. magna cum laude from the Boston University School of Law in 1890. He then went into private practice as a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts. While in practice, he was an instructor at the Boston University School of Law from 1891 to 1894. He once ran for state Attorney General, served on the Boston School Committee, and in 1913 accepted an appointment to the Massachusetts Commerce Commission. He later served on the state's Public Service Commission.

President Woodrow Wilson appointed him United States Attorney for Massachusetts and he served in that position from 1914 to 1917, followed by one year as a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission.[1] In 1916, he worked to win Senate approval of Louis Brandeis when he was nominated to the Supreme Court, serving as counsel to the subcommittee that considered the nomination and conducting some of the crucial cross examination of witnesses.[2]

In 1916 the Massachusetts legislature and electorate approved a calling of a Constitutional Convention.[3] Anderson was elected as a Delegate at Large to serve as a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1917.[4]

Wilson named Anderson as a Judge of the First Circuit on October 1, 1918, to a seat vacated by Frederic Dodge. Anderson was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission on October 24, 1918. He served as an active judge for 13 years and is remembered for dissenting when the court upheld some of the convictions arising from the Red Scare of 1919-20. In June 1920, he effectively prevented any further resumption of the Palmer raids of November 1919 and January 1920 when his decision in the case of Colyer v. Skeffington ordered the discharge of 17 arrested radicals. His opinion concluded that there was no evidence that the Communist Party of the United States had urged a violent overthrow of the U.S. government and he strongly criticized the Department of Justice for using entrapment and for its failure to follow proper legal procedures.[5] Of the deportation proceedings he wrote: "A more lawless proceeding it is hard for anyone to conceive.... I can hardly sit on the bench as an American citizen and restrain my indignation. I view with horror such proceedings as this."[6]

The Colyer case remained controversial. For example, during Senate hearings held to consider charges that Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer had ignored due process in arresting radicals in late 1919 and early 1920, a former Department of Justice official testified that Anderson had shown favoritism to witnesses on behalf of the defendant aliens in the Colyer deportation case.[7]

Anderson was married for eight years to Winnie E. Mitchell of Mason, New Hampshire, until her death. They had two sons and a daughter. In 1897 he married Addie Earle Kenerson of Boston, who survived him.[8] He served as an active judge until September 30, 1931, when he took what is now referred to as senior status. The same year, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[9] He lived in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts.

He retired in 1932. He died at his winter home in DeLand, Florida on February 14, 1938.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "George Anderson, a Retired Jurist. Ex-Judge of Federal Circuit Court of Appeals for New England Dies. Stricken In Florida Home. Appointed by President Wilson. Had Held Several Other Places of Importance". New York Times. February 15, 1938. 
  2. ^ Melvin I. Urofsky, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (Pantheon, 2009), 443-5, 452-3, 457, 832
  3. ^ Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston, MA: Wright & Potter printing co., state printers, 1919, pp. 7–8. 
  4. ^ Bridgman, Arthur Milnor (1919), A Souvenir of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, Boston, 1917-1919, Stoughton, MA: A. M. (Arthur Milnor) Bridgman, p. 58. 
  5. ^ Stone, Geoffrey R. (2004). Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. New York: Norton. pp. 225–26. ISBN 978-0-393-05880-2. 
  6. ^ Murray B. Levin, Political Hysteria in America: The Democratic Capacity for Repression (NY: Basic Books, 1971), 81
  7. ^ New York Times: "Criticizes Judge Anderson," February 17, 1921, accessed February 13, 2010
  8. ^ Who's who in New England: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men ... edited by Albert Nelson Marquis
  9. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 

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Legal offices
Preceded by
Frederic Dodge
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
October 24, 1918 - September 30, 1931
Succeeded by
James Madison Morton, Jr.