Born: Wednesday, April 4th, 1838
Died: Saturday, June 19th, 1909
Birthplace: Republic, Ohio
Education: University of Michigan Law School, LL.B. (1861)
Career: Prosecuting Attorney (1871-1890)
Walla Walla City Attorney (1878-1890)
Served: Monday, November 11th, 1889 to Tuesday, January 10th, 1905
Chief Justice: Monday, November 11th, 1889 to Monday, January 9th, 1893
Political Party: RepublicanThomas Jefferson Anders was born April 4, 1838 in Seneca County near the towns of Republic and Bloomville in north-central Ohio. His father engaged in farming and lumbering. At age twelve Anders moved to Republic to attend public schools and the Seneca County Academy. After graduating from the academy he taught in local schools, became a member of the Republic school board at age seventeen, and soon joined the academy’s faculty. He resigned in 1858 to attend the University of Michigan law department. Upon graduation in 1861 he taught school and practiced law in Wisconsin.
For health reasons he moved to Montana in 1864, driving an ox team. After regaining his health and accumulating some money from mining in Montana, Anders moved to Walla Walla, Washington Territory, and opened a law office in November, 1871. He successfully ran on the Republican ticket for prosecuting attorney of the eastern Washington district in 1872, and voters repeatedly reelected him. He served a total of eighteen years. He returned to private practice in Walla Walla, but was elected city attorney in 1878. He held this position for twelve years, concurrently with his prosecuting attorney post. In 1886 he was elected prosecuting attorney for Walla Walla County, an office he held until elected to the supreme court. Anders married Viola Hull in Walla Walla in December 1873, and the couple had six children.
Republicans nominated Anders to the supreme court in 1889 and he received 34,302 votes, the most of any of the judges running. He led the Republican Judicial tickets again in 1892 and 1898. Upon the suggestion of Judge Elmon Scott, the youngest member of the new court, his colleagues unanimously selected Anders, the oldest member, as the state’s first chief justice.
Judge Anders was a scholar of the law rather than a flamboyant politician.
According to one early account:
He is not possessed of a strong voice, or commanding presence but is tall and thin with a reserved, dignified, deliberate manner. He has a large head and intellectual face and his utterances, whether before a judge or jury or upon the rostrum, create a favorable impression.
Anders did not make hasty judicial decisions:
Judge Anders was a very conscientious judge, so much so that it was hard for him to come to a decision. He was well grounded in the general principles of the law, but he would spend an inconceivable amount of time in looking up authorities in support of even fundamental principles. He seemed to be anxious to render his opinions satisfactory to the layman as to members of the bar.
An analysis of his voting record during the court’s first five years confirms these appraisals. He wrote fewer opinions for the court than any of his colleagues. While he penned 181 majority opinions, the court average was 274. Ceremonial and administrative responsibilities might have been a burden, but even when Anders relinquished the chief’s responsibilities to Ralph Dunbar in 1892, he continued to write fewer opinions than his colleagues.
Anders rarely cast a dissenting vote and wrote only five dissenting opinions. He maintained the lowest dissent rate of any judge on the court at that time. However, his opinions were persuasive. His carefully researched views were generally longer than those of his colleagues, and subsequent courts cited his opinions more than any of his fellow justices.
Anders provided a key swing vote in divisive cases that occasionally confronted the court. The first bench was divided between activist Theodore Stiles, one eager to exercise judicial review, and restraintists Elmon Scott and Ralph Dunbar, who gave the legislature the benefit of the doubt in constitutional issues. Moderates John P. Hoyt and Anders provided balance between the extremes in cases involving constitutional questions.
Judge Anders retired from the bench at the end of his second term in January, 1905. He was sixty-seven years old. By that time he had become somewhat isolated from his colleagues and his decisions tended to follow a relatively conservative line. He died at age seventy-one on June 19, 1909.
See Seattle Times, 12 Sept. 1889; Washington State Bar Association Proceedings (1909), p. 197; C. S. Reinhart, History of the Washington Supreme Court of the Territory and State of Washington (n.d.), pp. 92, 100; and Charles Sheldon and Michael Stohr-Gillmore, “In the Beginning: The Washington Supreme Court a Century Ago,” University of Puget Sound Law Review, vol. 12 (Winter 1989), p. 247.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.