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West Coast Hotel v. Parrish

James Clark Mcreynolds

James Clark McReynolds (1862--1946), an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1914 until 1941, grew up in an area of Kentucky characterized by frontier based individualism. McReynolds' strictly religious parents gave him a sharply defined sense of right and wrong. Later at the University of Virginia, a law professor reinforced this ethic by teaching the law as a permanent, inflexible entity.

McReynolds practiced corporate law in Nashville from 1884 to 1903, when the city enjoyed great economic expansion. There he developed a legal philosophy that favored the rights of business individuals.

McReynolds worked as assistant U.S. attorney general, and later U.S. attorney general, before President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. In his judicial opinions, McReynolds supported individual contractual and business rights, opposed monopolies, and strictly limited the federal government to the powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. In a noteworthy dissent in the Gold Clause cases in 1935, which marked the end of the gold standard for American currency, McReynolds remarked that the Constitution as he knew it was "gone."

McReynolds, however, had unkind words for female lawyers, Jews, and African Americans, who curiously did not receive protection as individuals in his judicial opinions.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940West Coast Hotel v. Parrish - Significance, A Test Case, A Close Vote, James Clark Mcreynolds, Further Readings