Appleton, John

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Appleton, John

John Appleton was a prominent nineteenth-century Maine lawyer and judge. He served as a justice and chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1852 to 1883. During his long tenure he came to be recognized for his opposition to state laws that granted loans or tax exemptions to businesses. His belief in free market capitalism translated into minimal government regulation of business and no government breaks for business. In addition Appleton concerned himself with rethinking common law rules of evidence.

Appleton was born on July 12, 1804, in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. He graduated from Bowdoin College—where his uncle, Jesse Appleton, was president—in 1822 and then apprenticed himself to a New Hampshire lawyer to gain the knowledge needed to become a member of the bar. Appleton was admitted to the bar in 1826 and moved to Sebec, Maine, to start a private practice. Maine had been admitted to the Union in 1820 and was a growing, prosperous state. Appleton moved again to Bangor in 1838 and continued his private law practice. A great reader of philosophy and law, Appleton was attracted to the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. An interest in the law from a purely intellectual viewpoint led him to pursue a judgeship.

In 1841 he was appointed the reporter of decisions for the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the state's highest court. In this capacity Appleton edited the opinions of the justices, which gave him valuable insights into the workings of an appellate court. His diligence and intellectual esteem led to his appointment as a justice of the court in 1852. Eleven years later he was elevated to chief justice, a position he held for the next 31 years. Apart from his judicial opinions, Appleton published in 1860 a treatise entitled The Rules of Evidence, Stated and Discussed.

Appleton's opinions from the early 1870s on the proper relationship between government and business have come to be regarded as groundbreaking expressions of laissez-faire constitutionalism. After the Civil War state governments had rushed to give railroads and other businesses tax exemptions, loans, and property easements. When the town of Jay sought legislative authority to lend $10,000 to private entrepreneurs to move their mill and factory to the town, the legislature sought an Advisory Opinion from Maine's supreme court. In a bluntly worded opinion, Appleton declared that the legislature had no authority to help private businesses through gifts or loans. When the legislature ignored this opinion and authorized the funding, Appleton issued an opinion ruling the act unconstitutional. Appleton's analysis fore-shadowed the Substantive Due Process doctrine that the U.S. Supreme Court employed to strike down government regulations of business.

Appleton finally retired in 1883. He died on February 7, 1891, in Bangor, Maine.

Further readings

Gold, David M. 2000. "The Tradition of Substantive Judicial Review: A Case Study of Continuity in Constitutional Jurisprudence." Maine Law Review 52.

——. 1990. The Shaping of Nineteenth-Century Law: John Appleton and Responsible Individualism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood.

Witt, John Fabian. 1999. "Making the Fifth: The Constitutionalization of American Self-Incrimination Doctrine." Texas Law Review 77.

Karsten, Peter. 1997. "Supervising the 'Spoiled Children of Legislation': Judicial Judgments Involving Quasi-Public Corporations in the Nineteenth-Century United States." American Journal of Legal History 41.

References in periodicals archive ?
The winner in the tractor section was Dewi Jones with his Ferguson TVO while John Appleton took the first prize in the machinery section with a Ferguson Sprayer.
There's a guy called John Appleton and he's playing Siegfried Sassoon.
The last post was played by the bugler, John Appleton.
Carlson of Charlton; his mother, Joyce (Lyford) Carlson of Charlton; 2 grandchildren, Kody and Kristina Carlson; 2 brothers, David Carlson and his wife Celeste of Charlton, and Richard Carlson of SanFrancisco, CA; 3 sisters, Diane wife of John Appleton, Brenda Carlson, and Debbie wife of James Lawrence all of Charlton, and several nieces and nephews.
The ring was led by John Appleton, from Cannock, who was jailed for ten years.
The ring was led by John Appleton from Cannock, who was jailed for 10 years and in passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday Judge John Maxwell said that Sergant had a direct link to Appleton, acting as his "lieutenant".
St Helens-Sutton's John Appleton collected the Pike prize for the first junior man home.
John Appleton, Director of Electronic Leisure for Mitchell's and Butler, stated, "During our relationship with TRM, they have demonstrated their commitment to superior customer service.
Dr Seif Shaheen of King's College London and Dr John Appleton from Liverpool University's dental school will now analyse the mineral content of the milk teeth belonging to 250 children with asthma and 250 without.
Disabled athlete John Appleton, 27, who also suffers from cerebral palsy, and hopes to play soccer for Britain in the Sydney Paralympics, said: "He happens to have been gifted with an able body, and what right has he got to judge other people?
Disabled athlete John Appleton said Hoddle had no right to comment and should apologise.