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Isaac Atwater, Associate Justice, 1858-1864

Isaac Atwater

Portrait of Isaac Atwater, 1880


Justice Atwater joined the court at the same time Minnesota became a state


Isaac Atwater, one of the first justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court, was born in Homer, New York on May 3, 1818. He attended neighborhood schools, a seminary in Cazenovia, and an academy in Homer before entering Yale at the age of 22. Atwater graduated from Yale four years later, in 1844, and pursued teaching before returning for law school. Atwater was admitted to practice in New York in 1848 and, the following year, married Permelia A. Sanborn with whom he relocated to Saint Anthony, Minnesota (now a part of Minneapolis) in 1850. Along with practicing law in his new Minnesota home, Atwater is credited with publishing and, for a time, ownership of the first newspaper in the Minnesota Territory to originate outside St. Paul. He was also a member of the first Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, thus participating in the formation of the University. Atwater served on the Minnesota Supreme Court from May 24, 1858, to July 6, 1864, during which time he authored 158 opinions for the court, most of which were cases of first impression and have since been cited in many briefs and opinions. Opinions written by Justice Atwater can be found in volumes two through nine of the Minnesota Reports. Justice Atwater died on December 22, 1906, at age 88.

You may read more about the life and work of Justice Atwater in his memorial and articles, linked below, and in the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society's book Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices, which is the source of this brief biography.


Portrait of Isaac Atwater courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, por 13275 p1

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