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Lemuel Shaw

Shaw, Lemuel, 1781–1861, American jurist, b. Barnstable, Mass. After a career in the Massachusetts state legislature, Shaw served as chief justice for the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts (1830–60). In Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842), Shaw provided an important precedent in labor relations by arguing that members of labor unions were not engaging in criminal conspiracies against their employers. In Roberts v. City of Boston (1849), a forerunner of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), he ruled that the segregation of black schoolchildren was not a violation of the Massachusetts state constitution. His decision in Commonwealth v. Alger (1851) was an early and influential attempt to define the limits of state police power. In Brown v. Kendall (1850), Shaw established negligence as the dominant standard of tort law, and ruled that injured plaintiffs have the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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