Warm Southern Breeze

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Posts Tagged ‘Gorsuch’

A Taxing Proposition

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, June 9, 2021

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure.


A penalty, on the other hand, is intended altogether to prevent the thing punished.”

–– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., dissenting opinion, “Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue,” 275 U.S. 87, October term 1927, p100

On that court were Chief Justice William Howard Taft; Associate Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.; Willis Van Devanter; James C. McReynolds; Louis Brandeis; George Sutherland; Pierce Butler; Edward T. Sanford, and; Harlan F. Stone.

Holmes, Brandeis, and Taft are the only names many remember from that group.

Then-POTUS Warren G. Harding, a Republican, nominated Taft, also a Republican, to become Chief Justice (1921–1930) following the death of CJ Edward Douglass White, a Democrat, whom Taft had appointed as CJ in December 1910, while Taft was serving as President (1909–1913). Taft is, to-date, the only individual to have ever served in both positions – President, and SCOTUS Chief Justice.

But, here are a couple interesting facts:

1.) From July 4, 1901 until December 23, 1903, Taft was Governor-General of the Philippines, having been appointed by POTUS William McKinley. Having held that office previously, he should have recused himself from the 1927 case “Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue.” But, he did not.

2.) Edward Douglass White served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, was a strident segregationist, and upheld racist laws which came before the court, including the notorious Plessy v. Ferguson case which gave rise to the “separate but equal” doctrine, and reinforced racist practices in the United States.

Today, such obvious conflicts of interest would not be tolerated. And I note this with a mark of appreciation: Justice Brett Kavanaugh recently recused himself (did not participate in) from a recent case before the court, because his father held some stock in one company being represented to the court.

Technically, “involvement” at that level exclusively doesn’t violate ethics rules, but having erred on the side of caution – exercised jurisprudential reservation – is commendable. That is because it demonstrates Read the rest of this entry »

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