SCHS: Court History — Rosette Detail

Benjamin R. Curtis, 1851-1857

Justice Benjamin R. Curtis, 1851-1857
BENJAMIN R. CURTIS was born on November 4, 1809, in Watertown, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College, graduating in 1829, and entered Harvard Law School. Curtis established a law practice in Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1831 and received his law degree in 1832. In 1834, he moved to Boston and joined a law firm. He was elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1849, where he was appointed chairman of a committee charged with the reform of state judicial procedures. Two years later, Curtis presented the Massachusetts Practice Act of 1851. It was considered a model of judicial reform and was approved by the legislature without amendment. President Millard Fillmore nominated Curtis to the Supreme Court of the United States on December 11, 1851, as a recess appointment, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on December 20, 1851. Curtis resigned from the Supreme Court on September 30, 1857, after almost six years of service, and returned to his law practice in Boston. During the following fifteen years, he argued cases before the Supreme Court on a number of occasions. He died on September 15, 1874, at the age of sixty-four.