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Charles H. Fahy
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

In office
October 21, 1949 – April 17, 1967
Nominated by Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by George MacKinnon
26th Solicitor General of the United States

In office
November 1, 1941 – September 1945
Appointed by Franklin Roosevelt
Preceded by Francis Biddle
Succeeded by J. Howard McGrath
Personal details
Born Charles Fahy
(1892-08-17)August 17, 1892
Rome, Georgia
Died September 17, 1979(1979-09-17) (aged 87)
Washington, D.C
Spouse(s) Mary Agnes Lane
Alma mater attended University of Notre Dame
Georgetown University Law School (LL.B.)

Charles Fahy (August 27, 1892 – September 17, 1979) served as Solicitor General of the United States and later as a United States federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Early life, education, and career[edit | edit source]

Born in Rome, Georgia, Fahy was the son of Thomas and Sarah (Jonas) Fahy. Charles attended the University of Notre Dame and then went to Georgetown University Law School. There he received his LL.B. in 1914 and was admitted to the D.C. bar in the same year. He served the United States in World War I as a naval aviator attached to the British and American forces. Fahy was awarded the Navy Cross. After the war he returned to Washington, D.C. and practiced law until 1924, before moving his practice to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he resided until 1933. While in Sante Fe, Fahy served as the city attorney in 1932.

Executive branch service[edit | edit source]

J. Warren Madden (left), Chair of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is shown going over testimony with Charles Fahy (right), General Counsel of the NLRB, and Nathan Witt, NLRB Executive Secretary, prior to testifying before Congress on December 13, 1937.

In 1933, Fahy returned to Washington when he was appointed first assistant solicitor to the Department of the Interior. That same year he was appointed as a member of the Petroleum Administrative Board, and then served as its president from 1934-1935. As general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board from 1935–1940, Fahy began his career in Supreme Court litigation on behalf of labor rights. Upon the enactment of the Wagner Act in 1935, Fahy, on behalf of the NLRB, often appeared in front of both Houses of Congress to offer testimony and litigated cases in the Supreme Court brought against the government. By the time he was appointed assistant solicitor general in 1940, Fahy had already appeared eighteen times in front of the Supreme Court, where his arguments were wholly sustained sixteen times and partially upheld twice.

Fahy was appointed Solicitor General by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 1, 1941. While Solicitor General, Fahy continued to advocate for worker's labor rights, and was involved in cases regarding the constitutionality of wiretapping and the citizenship of American Communists.

Fahy served as Solicitor General until 1945, after having argued more than 70 cases in front of the Supreme Court before being called upon by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as director of the legal division of the U.S. Group Control Council in Germany in the aftermath of World War II. After returning from his tour of duty in Germany, Fahy became the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. He was also a member of the U.S. Legal Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations, held in New York City in 1946.

Korematsu v. United States[edit | edit source]

Fahy successfully argued the landmark case of Korematsu v. United States, in which the Supreme Court validated the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, forcing the relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps. In 1983, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco vacated this ruling after reviewing evidence that Fahy deliberately suppressed information indicating Japanese-Americans were no threat to national security. In 2011, Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal formally acknowledged Fahy's misconduct in the case.[1][2]

Federal judicial service[edit | edit source]

Fahy returned to private practice in 1947, but was again called to serve the federal government as chairman of the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunities in Armed Forces, from 1948-1950. On October 21, 1949, Fahy received a recess appointment from Harry S Truman to a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit created by 63 Stat. 493. Formally nominated on January 5, 1950, Fahy was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 4, 1950, and received his commission on April 7, 1950. He assumed senior status on April 17, 1967, and served in that capacity until his death.

Death and commemoration[edit | edit source]

Commissioned bust of Fahy

Fahy was the recipient of a number of awards, including the Navy Cross (1917), a medal for military merit (1946), the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award (1951), John Carroll Award from the Georgetown University Member Alumni (1953), and the D.C. Distinguished Service Award (1969). Charles Fahy died on September 17, 1979, at the age of 87 in Washington, D.C. He was survived by his wife Mary Agnes Lane, and children Charles (Dom Thomas Fahy O.S.B.), Anne Marie (Sheehan), Sarah Agnes (Sister Sarah Fahy S.N.D.), and Mary Agnes (Johnson).

The Washington Post wrote this editorial at his death (published Sept. 19, 1979 and written by Meg Greenfield):

Of those who have devoted their lives to public service, none gave more and

asked less in return than Charles Fahy, who died Monday night. A quiet, unassuming, self-effacing man, Judge Fahy was easily mistaken for the kind of person who is content to stand aside and watch the world go by. But he was something completely different. That shy manner cloaked an intellect so powerful that his imprint has been fixed on the law for years to come. His intellect was matched by his compassion.

Over the years, Mr. Fahy was a naval aviator in World War I, the first general counsel of the NLRB, solicitor general, a member of the American delegation to the San Francisco conference and later to the United Nations, legal adviser to the military governor of Germany, chairman of President Truman's committee to eliminate discrimination from the armed forces and, after 1949, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. Of all the things he did in these and other jobs, Judge Fahy was proudest of two. One was his acknowledged large role in desegregating the military. The other was his dissent, soon after he became a judge, in the Thompson restaurant case. That dissent, like many others he wrote in later years, became the basis for a Supreme Court opinion. But this one was the basis for a unanimous decision that struck down segregation in the District of Columbia's restaurants, theaters, and other public places.

Judge David L. Bazelon has called Charles Fahy "the conscience of our court." Judge Skelly Wright says he was a "gentle man who was loved by everybody who knew him." Both are right. Judge Fahy had no enemies, even among those with whom he disagreed so wholeheartedly during those turbulent years of the 1950s and 1960s when his was a strong voice on the Court of Appeals on behalf of civil rights, individual liberties and personal freedom.

These words of the late J. Warren Madden, chief judge of the Court of Claims for many years, sum up his life: "Charles Fahy's part in the making of the law has not, we think, been surpassed by any lawyer of his generation....This unpretentious human being could, but would not, point to many fundamental features in the present day structure of American constitutional law and say,

'The work of my hand is there.'"

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Office of the Solicitor General.

References[edit | edit source]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Green Hackworth
Legal Adviser of the Department of State
1946 – 1947
Succeeded by
Ernest A. Gross
Preceded by
Francis Biddle
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
J. Howard McGrath

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