George Tod

From Ohio History Central

George Tod was born in Connecticut in 1774. He moved to Ohio in 1800 and settled in the Connecticut Western Reserve. A lawyer, Tod became well respected for his legal knowledge. In 1806, the Ohio legislature approved his appointment as one of the judges on the Ohio Supreme Court.

In 1806, Calvin Pease, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the Third Circuit, declared a section of an Ohio law in violation of the Ohio Constitution of 1803. The Ohio law permitted justices of the peace to oversee legal disputes involving property or money in excess of twenty dollars. Pease declared that the Constitution promised trial by jury and that the Ohio law was a clear violation of that guarantee. As a result of Pease's decision, the law could not be enforced in Ohio. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Huntington and Tod sustained Pease's decision in the case Rutherford v. M'Faddon in 1807. The judges' actions essentially established judicial review of legislative decisions.

At the heart of this case was the question of the courts' ability to declare laws unconstitutional. The legislature had no desire to relinquish any power to the judiciary. To weaken the judicial branch, the legislature attempted to impeach both Tod and Pease. The legislature acquitted both men of all crimes by a single vote. Tod resigned his seat in 1810. For the time being, Ohio courts had the power to review legislative decisions. The Ohio legislature, however, would continue to try and establish itself as the dominant force in state government at the expense of the judicial branch.

Following his time on the Ohio Supreme Court, Tod fought in the War of 1812, serving the American cause bravely at Fort Meigs. Upon the war's conclusion, Tod returned to the judiciary, this time as a member of the Court of Common Pleas for the Third Circuit. He held his seat from 1815 until 1829. He devoted the last years of his life to farming and his law practice. He died in 1841.

See Also