November 4, 1732 – Birthdate of Thomas Johnson, Future Supreme Court Justice

On this day in history, Thomas Johnson was born in Maryland. Johnson was admitted to practice law in 1760, and attended both the first and second meetings of the Continental Congress. He also helped draft the 1775 Maryland Declaration of Rights and later served as Governor of Maryland.

Thomas Johnson

Thomas Johnson

Johnson was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1791. Johnson had intended to retire from what had been a busy public life because of age and infirmity. But at the request of President George Washington, who was a longtime acquaintance and business partner, Johnson made an attempt at the post of Associate Justice, only to discover shortly that “[t]he office and the man do not fit.” However, while sitting in the Court, he did deliver its first reported decision, Georgia v. Brailsford, 2 U.S. 2 Dall. 402 402 (1792). This case held that “[a] State may sue in the Supreme Court to enjoin payment of a judgment in behalf of a British creditor taken on a debt, which was confiscated by the State, until it can be ascertained to whom the money belongs.”

Johnson resigned less than a year later.

Two later cases also called Georgia v. Brailsford followed this one, Georgia v. Brailsford (1793) 2 U.S. 415, continuing the case of Georgia v. Brailsford (1792), and Georgia v. Brailsford (1794) 3 U.S. 1, involving jury nullification.

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