Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court
The Duvall Wing of the Courthouse in Upper Marlboro is named for Justice Gabriel Duvall, the first Prince Georgian to serve as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Early Life; Revolutionary War and New State
Justice Duvall lived, worked and served the citizens of Prince George’s County throughout his life. Born on December 6, 1752, Duvall served in the Revolutionary War as a muster master and commissary of stores, and member of the Maryland militia. He became an attorney in 1778, after clerking for the Maryland Council of Safety and the Maryland House of Delegates, and maintained his law practice during the Revolutionary War while serving in the Maryland militia.
Government and Judicial Offices
From 1782 to 1785, Duvall served on the Maryland Governor’s Council; in 1787, he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates where he served until his election as United States Congressman from Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District. Duvall was reelected in 1796, but resigned soon after to accept appointment as Chief Judge of the General Court of Maryland, the precursor to the circuit court. The General Court had statewide trial jurisdiction, and produced four justices of the United States Supreme Court, including Duvall, before it was abolished by a new Maryland Constitution in 1804.
Duvall served as Chief Judge of the General Court until 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as the U.S. Comptroller of the Treasury, legal advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury. He continued in that position under President James Madison.
United States Supreme Court
In 1811, President Madison appointed Duvall to the United States Supreme Court seat left by the resignation of another former Maryland General Court Chief Judge, Justice Samuel Chase.
Justice Duvall served on the Supreme Court until his retirement in 1835. He served during the important early years of the Court, when its opinions defined and interpreted the new United States Constitution for posterity. Chief Justice John Marhsall often drew on Justice Duvall’s expertise in commercial law, asking him to author the Court’s opinions on matters of public finance, to guide the formative relations between private and public interests.
Return to Prince George's County; Legacy
Upon his retirement, Justice Duvall returned to his home in Glenn Dale, in Prince George’s County, where he died in 1844 at age 92.
Justice Duvall left a legacy of dedication to the law, to our judicial system, and to public service—as well as a long family history. Recognizing his singular contribution to the legal history of Prince George’s County, the court dedicated the oldest wing of the present courthouse, standing on the foundation of our first courthouse, to his memory.
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