Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation
The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 2nd Edition edited by Hall, Kermit L (23rd June 2005)

O, Otto, William Tod

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 04 July 2020

Otto, William Tod

(b. Philadelphia, Pa., 19 Jan. 1816; d. Philadelphia, 7 Nov. 1905), reporter of decisions, 1875–1883. Otto, who authored the first series of nonnominative Supreme Court reports, received his A.B. in 1833 and A.M. in 1836 from the University of Pennsylvania. After studying law, he moved to Brownstown, Indiana, to practice. Otto became judge of the Second Circuit Court in Indiana in 1844 and served until his defeat in the 1852 election. He was an able, austere judge but a pleasant and good-humored man away from official life. Otto taught law at Indiana University during his last five years on the bench, after which the university awarded him an LL.D.

Otto lost the 1858 election for attorney general of Indiana but was a Lincoln delegate at the 1860 Republican national convention. President Abraham *Lincoln rewarded Otto with appointment as assistant secretary of the interior in 1863, in which post Otto took a keen interest in Indian affairs. He left the Interior Department in 1871 to serve as arbitrator for claims against Spain from U.S. citizens in Cuba. Otto successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in *Murdock v. Memphis (1875) that the *Judiciary Act of 1867 conferred no more power on the Court than had the *Judiciary Act of 1789.

(p. 714) Otto succeeded John William *Wallace as the Court’s reporter of decisions in 1875 and served until 1883, publishing seventeen volumes (91–107 United States Reports). After leaving the Court, Otto returned to law practice, and in 1885 he served as a U.S. representative to the Universal Postal Congress in Lisbon.

See also reporters, supreme court.

Francis Helminski