John Foster Symes

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John Foster Symes (February 10, 1878 – April 5, 1951) was a United States federal judge.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Symes received a Ph.B. from Yale University in 1900 and an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1903. He was in private practice in New York City from 1902 to 1906, and in Denver from 1906 to 1921. His practice being interrupted by service in the United States Army during World War I, from 1917 to 1919, where he achieved the rank of Major. He was the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado from 1921 to 1922.

On April 22, 1922, Symes was nominated by President Warren G. Harding to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Colorado vacated by Robert E. Lewis. Symes was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 16, 1922, and received his commission the same day.

Symes also has the distinction of sentencing the first person arrested under the newly enacted 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, Moses Baca. Judge Symes, said: "I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics-far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine. Under its influence men become beasts, just as was the case with Baca. Marijuana destroys life itself...The government is going to enforce this new law to the letter." Baca was sentenced to 18-months in Leavenworth Penitentiary for "possession" of "approximately one-fourth (1/4) of an ounce of marihuana"[1]

Symes assumed senior status on April 14, 1950, serving in that capacity until his death the following year.



Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert E. Lewis
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
Succeeded by
William Lee Knous