Joseph Rucker Lamar
Joseph Rucker Lamar served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1911 to 1916. Unlike many appointees to the Court, Lamar was not selected on the basis of a long political career. As an attorney and Georgia Supreme Court judge, Lamar was recognized for his legal abilities.
Lamar was born in Ruckersville, Georgia, on October 14, 1857. His wealthy family provided generations of leadership in the community, and included LUCIUS Q. C. LAMAR, who served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1888 to 1893.
Lamar attended the University of Georgia and graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia in 1877. He then attended Washington and Lee Law School and was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1878. From 1880 to 1903, Lamar practiced law in Augusta, Georgia. He often represented corporations, including railroads, and argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1886 to 1889. His legal abilities were used more directly when he was appointed to serve on a commission revising the Georgia code of state laws. CODIFICATION is a process of
revising and reorganizing legislative laws into a coherent whole. Lamar mastered the highly technical process and revised the civil-law volume himself. The code was approved by the legislature in 1895.
In 1903 he was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court. He resigned in 1905 to return to his law practice.
Lamar was surprised when President WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, a Republican, appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1910. Lamar had met Taft the year before when the president was visiting Augusta, but was not well acquainted with him or his circle. In fact, Democrat WOODROW WILSON, who became president in 1912, was a childhood friend of Lamar's.
During Lamar's brief term on the Court, interstate commerce and the growth of federal regulatory and administrative power were prime topics of legal dispute. Lamar adhered to the majority view in most cases. He wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Grimaud, 220 U.S. 506, 31 S. Ct. 480, 55 L. Ed. 563 (1911), which expanded the authority of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH to add details deliberately left open by congressional legislation. Lamar held that it was not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to allow administrators to exercise their discretion in filling in the details of laws.
Lamar died January 2, 1916, in Washington, D.C.