President Ulysses S. Grant appoints Morrison Waite Chief Justice.
In Kohl v. United States, the Court upholds the right of the federal government to exercise the power of eminent domain. The decision holds that this power, by which the government may seize private property in order to construct roads or other public facilities, is essential to the governmental duty to serve the public and outweighs any inconvenience to individuals.
Five Supreme Court justices, in conjunction with five senators and five representatives, participate in a joint electoral commission to end a stalemate in the contested 1876 presidential election. The commission votes 8-7 along party lines to award all disputed electoral ballots to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, who had not won the popular vote. For their promise not to oppose this vote, the southern Democrats exact a promise from the Republican majority in Congress not to use the national authority to enforce the rights of black Americans against southern states.
A poster decries the outcome of the Election of 1876, in which five Supreme Court justices joined five Senators and five representatives in a joint commission to end a stalemate.
Reproduction courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Court's decision in Munn v. Illinois upholds a state law setting a maximum price for the storage of grain in Chicago, rejecting the claim of the owner of a grain storage company that the law violates his property rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Waite states, "When private property is devoted to a public use, it is subject to public regulation." Justice Stephen Field's dissent argues that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any regulation that destroys private property. His substantive interpretation doctrine becomes law in the 1890s.
Senator David Davis, a former Supreme Court Justice from 1862 to 1877, introduces a special bill in Congress to allow Associate Justice Ward Hunt early retirement benefits, on the condition that Ward resign from the Court within 30 days of the bill's passage. Although Hunt had not participated in any Court proceedings since suffering a stroke in 1878, he had refused to retire until he was eligible to receive full retirement benefits (at the time, 10 years' service was required for vestment). Hunt turns in his resignation within hours of the bill's passage.