John Currey
John Currey.jpg
8th Chief Justice of California
In office
January 1, 1866 – January 1, 1868
Preceded bySilas Sanderson
Succeeded byLorenzo Sawyer
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1864 – December 31, 1865
Preceded byElections under 1862 amendment to California constitution and 1863 enabling law
Succeeded byRoyal Sprague
Personal details
BornOctober 4, 1814
Westchester County, New York
DiedDecember 18, 1912(1912-12-18) (aged 98)
Dixon, California
Political partyDemocratic
Cornelia Elizabeth Scott
(m. 1845; death 1877)
Alma materWesleyan University (BA)

John Moore Currey (October 4, 1814 – December 18, 1912) was the eighth Chief Justice of California, and candidate for Governor of California in 1859.


Born in Westchester County, New York in 1814, John Currey died in Dixon, California in 1912.[1] He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (class of 1842).[2][3][4][5]

Currey came to California in 1849, eventually settling down in Benicia, Solano County, California where he established a successful law practice. Among his clients was Juan Manuel Vaca, owner of a large tract of land, a Mexican land grant near the present-day city that bears his name: Vacaville, California.

In 1850 and 1852, Millard Fillmore nominated him to be a district court judge in California, but both nominations were unsuccessful; the United States Senate voted to reject the first nomination and took no action on the second.[6][7]

In 1859 the Anti-Lecompton Democratic Party selected Currey as their candidate for Governor of California. The rival faction, Lecompton Democrats, chose Milton Latham as their candidate. The Republican Party ran its first California gubernatorial candidate in 1859, businessman and railroad tycoon, and later Governor Leland Stanford. Despite the Democratic party split in California in the 1850s and the surge of new Republican Party's candidate in the campaign, Latham won the election, garnering sixty percent of the vote.

After defeat in his run for Governor, Currey would find other promising opportunities for office. In 1863, several vacancies on the Supreme Court occurred. The departed justices included the sixth Chief Justice Stephen Johnson Field, who was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first Californian serve on the high court.

In 1863, a constitutional amendment meant all of the seats of the Supreme Court of California were open for election.[8] Running as a "union" party candidate at the height of the American Civil War, Currey was elected to the Supreme Court of California, taking his seat in January 1864.[9] His term ended January 1, 1868.[10] After serving as associate justice, Currey became Chief Justice on January 1, 1866, when Silas Sanderson resigned, on the rule that the member of the court with the shortest remaining term serves.[11] (He was defeated in his re-election bid, for the newly established ten-year term, by associate justice Augustus Rhodes and was therefore succeeded as Chief Justice by Lorenzo Sawyer).

Having served four years on the court, including two as chief justice, Currey lost the 1867 election to Royal Sprague and retired to his home in San Francisco.[12][13] When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire left him homeless he moved to his estate north of Dixon in Solano County, in the Sacramento Valley. With his sons, Montgomery Scott Currey and Robert Spencer Currey, there he lived out his last years.[14]

Personal life[edit]

In 1845, Currey married Cornelia Elizabeth Scott, who died April 20, 1877.[15]


  1. ^ Johnson, J. Edward (1963). History of the California Supreme Court: The Justices 1850-1900, vol 1 (PDF). San Francisco, CA: Bender Moss Co. p. 92-94. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 27, 2016. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  2. ^ Ward, George Kemp (1910). Andrew Warde and his descendants, 1597-1910: being a compilation of facts... A.T. De La Mare Publishing Company. p. 506. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  3. ^ Bancroft, Hubert Howe; Oak, Henry Lebbeus; Nemos, William; Victor, Frances Fuller (1890). "History of California Volume VII 1860-1890". The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft Volume XXIV. The History Company. p. 235. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  4. ^ "Southern New York-Book 2 - part 116". American History and Genealogy Project (AHGP). Archived from the original on 2005-01-21. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  5. ^ "Full text of "Alumni Record of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn"". Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  6. ^ "Unsuccessful Nominations and Recess Appointments". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  7. ^ "One of the 'Lucky' Candidates". Los Angeles Star (10). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 11 July 1863. p. 1. Retrieved July 8, 2017. Detailing the several public offices Currey ran for and lost.
  8. ^ "The Supreme Court". San Francisco Call. Library of Congress, Chronicling America. June 22, 1895. p. 5. Retrieved July 18, 2017. Under the constitutional provision, on October 21, 1863, Oscar L. Shafter, Lorenzo Sawyer, Silas W. Sanderson, John Curry and A. L. Rhodes were elected Supreme Court Justices. The new court organized January 2, 1864, and in accordance with law, the Judges drew lots to determine the tenure of their official terms, with the following result: Shafter drew for ten years, Rhodes for eight. Sawyer for six, Curry for four and Sanderson for two.
  9. ^ "State Government, Judicial Department, Supreme Court". Sacramento Daily Union (26 (3988)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 1 January 1864. p. 1. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  10. ^ "State Government, Judicial Department, Supreme Court Members". Sacramento Daily Union (28 (4300)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 2 January 1865. p. 2. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  11. ^ "State Government, Judicial Department, Supreme Court Members". Sacramento Daily Union (30 (4611)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 1 January 1866. p. 1. Retrieved July 8, 2017. Showing John Currey with a term ending January 1, 1868, the shortest remaining, and thus Currey is Chief Justice.
  12. ^ "The Fall Election". New York Herald. August 30, 1869. The last election for judges of the Supreme Court of California occurred in 1867, when Royal T. Sprague, democrat, was elected over John Currey, republican, by a majority of 2,269.
  13. ^ "Judge John Currey is Injured by Cable Car". San Francisco Call (95 (141)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 19 April 1904. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  14. ^ "Judge Currey's Funeral". San Francisco Call (113 (21)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 21 December 1912. p. 10. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  15. ^ "Died: Cornelia Scott, wife of Judge John Currey". Daily Alta California (29 (9875)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 21 April 1877. p. 4. Retrieved July 8, 2017.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
John B. Weller
Democratic nominee for Governor of California
Succeeded by
John Conness
Legal offices
Preceded by
Silas Sanderson
Chief Justice of California
Succeeded by
Lorenzo Sawyer
Preceded by
Elections under 1862 amendment to California constitution and 1863 enabling law
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Royal Sprague