Stanley W. Merrill
b. Dec. 26, 1876
d. Feb. 14, 1921
84th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Term
Dec. 2, 1919
to June 18, 1920

STANLEY W. MERRILL

During his 44 years, Justice Stanley W. Merrell contributed his considerable talents to the administration of justice in the state of Ohio. He served as Hamilton County assistant prosecutor, Cincinnati city solicitor and Cincinnati Superior Court judge. The culmination of his judicial career was his appointment to serve as Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Merrell was born on Dec. 26, 1876 in Cincinnati to George and Cornelia Spear Merrell. He graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1899 and entered law school at his alma mater. He graduated in 1901 with a bachelor of laws degree. Merrell was admitted to practice law in the state of Ohio in 1901. He formed a law practice with C. Bentley Matthews in Cincinnati under the name of Matthews and Merrell. The firm dissolved in 1908 and, from 1908 to 1913, he was in solo legal practice.

From 1906 to 1908, Merrell served as a member-at-large of the Cincinnati City Council as the sole Democratic member. Hamilton County Prosecutor Henry T. Hunt appointed him in 1909 as assistant county prosecutor, responsible for the civil division. When Hunt was elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1911, he appointed Merrell first assistant city solicitor for the city. On Sept. 1, 1913, Merrell resigned as city solicitor when Gov. James M. Cox appointed him to be judge of Cincinnati Superior Court, a trial court, filling the unexpired term of Judge Frederick L. Spiegel. In November 1913, he was elected to fill the unexpired term that ended Jan. 1, 1914, as well as a six-year term from Jan. 1, 1914 to Jan. 1, 1920.

Gov. Cox appointed Merrell to the Supreme Court on Nov. 24, 1919. He succeeded Justice Maurice H. Donahue, who resigned to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His term of office was to end Jan. 1, 1921. He assumed his office on Dec. 2, 1919. During his brief tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Merrell wrote four majority opinions and one concurrence. An interesting case of liability involved a team of runaway horses, Drake v. East Cleveland (1920).

The plaintiff, Mr. Drake, and co-worker John H. Robinson delivered goods to grocery stores using a two-horse truck. While Mr. Drake was in the back of the truck one day, the horses became frightened and started to run. The horses tripped over an open 16-inch-wide, 2 ½ feet deep trench. Drake was thrown from the truck and struck his head on a pile of stone. The trial court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor and the Court of Appeals of Cuyahoga County reversed this decision. The Supreme Court ruled that the city of East Cleveland was not liable for the accident. Justice Merrell wrote, “Taking the admitted facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it must therefore be said that the accident resulted not from a defect in the street, not from an unguarded nuisance in or immediately adjacent to the street, but from an uncontrollable, though perhaps, non-culpable, departure from a public way, which, so far as appears, was reasonably safe for this team and those riding behind it as long as the ream was under normal control.”

Merrell resigned on June 18, 1920 to accept a position as general counsel of the Big Four Railroad with offices in Cincinnati. He became the first assistant to Judge Leonard Hackney, chief counsel of the New York Central Railroad. Additionally, he became a professor at the Cincinnati Law School.

On Feb. 11, 1921, he became ill at his office in the Big Four Administration Building in Cincinnati. He died three days later at his house in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. Funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Louis G. Hoeck, pastor of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and were held at the Merrell home on Feb. 16, 1921. He was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

On April 27, 1905, Merrill married Louise Caldwell of Cincinnati. They had two children.