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Lambdin P. Milligan (Ex Parte Milligan)


A lawyer who moved to Huntington in 1845, Lambdin Milligan was the principal connection to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Ex parte Milligan. The Court ruled that the application of military tribunals to civilians when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional.

Milligan was known for his extreme opinions on states’ rights and opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War. He was arrested and tried for treason by a military commission in 1864. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. His case was appealed and eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the military commission’s proceedings were not constitutional. Among Milligan’s legal team was James Garfield, a future U.S. president.

Milligan was released from prison in 1866 and returned to practice law in Huntington. Milligan filed a civil lawsuit in 1868 seeking $500,000 in damages as a result of the Ex parte Milligan case.

The case reached the Indiana Circuit Court in Indianapolis, where another future president, Benjamin Harrison, argued against Milligan. In 1871 a jury found in Milligan’s favor, although he was only awarded five dollars plus court costs due to limits of state and federal statutes. He died December 21, 1899.

The Ex parte Milligan case continues to be examined in legal circles and taught in law schools. Its significance on protection of citizens against unlawful arrest and prosecution has been revisited during each of the world wars, during the Cold War, and following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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