The foremost of American legal the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United s, founder of the Harvard Law School, an overseer and Professor of Law of Harvard University, a nationalist in principle, Justice Joseph Story was a towering figure in the American legal history. His contribution and role in the history of American law is stupendous. Justice Story was born in an aristocratic family in the state of Massachusetts. Having graduated from Harvard in 1798, he was admitted to the Bar in 1801 (Weiss, 2004). He was largely self-educated and was second in the class at Harvard. He studies law under a Marblehead Attorney before being admitted to the Bar (Lane, 1997). He practiced law in Salem and was elected several times to the Massachusetts legislature (Infoplease, 2000). Justice Story was politically active from 1805-1811. He briefly served in the US Congress. He was a member of the State house of representatives from 1805-1807 and again in 1811. He also served as a speaker for two terms from 1810 to 1812, and published commentaries on the constitution. His legal scholarship brought him fame and at the tender age of 32, in 1811, he was appointed by President Madison to the U.S. Supreme Court, the youngest person ever to hold that position. Simultaneously, as part of his duties at the Supreme Court, he served as a circuit justice in New England. Justice Story was an early shaper of the US federal system. He served as the Supreme Court Justice until his death in 1845. After appointment at the Supreme Court, President Madison expected Justice Story to contest the Federalist Party nationalism of Chief Justice Marshall but this did not take place. Justice Story joined Chief Justice John Marshall in giving juristic support to the development of American nationalism. He assisted Justice Marshall in broadening the Constitution and expanding the federal power (Encyclopædia, 2006). His opinion in the Martin v. Hunters Lessee (1816) case established that the Supreme Court had the appellate authority over the highest state courts in all civil cases involving the federal Constitution, statutes, and treaties. Justice Story was amongst the top ten important Justices in the history of the US Supreme Court. His contribution at every point in American history is significant. He played a significant role in defining the relationship and the powers of the newly formed US federal government and the individual state governments, which had become a major debatable issue. The framers of the US Constitution demanded that all admiralty and maritime cases should be heard by the federal court, as it would help promote uniformity of law and an emerging US economy. The US maritime laws are based on the maritime laws of England and accordingly, the sea has been defined as being limited to waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide. Justice Story studied the evolution of admiralty jurisdiction in England. He opposed the manner in which America had adopted the English law. He advocated that the US courts could adopt what was appropriate in the best interest of the nation as it affected US commerce. He pointed out that it was not necessary to adhere to strict English legal tradition. He subsequently established the general rule that contracts are maritime and subject to a US court’s maritime jurisdiction if they relate to navigation, business, or commerce of the sea (Weiss).
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