Voice of the Class Traces Ancestry to Great-Great Grandfather Who Argued Before U.S. Supreme Court

Read Transcript of Philip Cantwell’s Address

When Philip Cantwell, JD ’12, decided to pursue a career in law, he was inspired by his great-great grandfather, an 1888 alumnus of Washington University School of Law who argued a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I knew there were a few lawyers in the family tree, but I had no clue that a family member—a Washington University grad at that—had argued before the Supreme Court,” says Cantwell, who will serve as the Voice of the Class at the law school's Commencement Ceremony on Friday. “It’s was a pretty neat discovery."

Another relative and Washington University alumnus, Philip Cantwell’s uncle, Jim Cantwell, B.A. ’73, serves as the Cantwell family historian. In his research, he discovered that Philip Cantwell’s great-great grandfather, Harry James Cantwell, Sr., graduated from the St. Louis Law School in 1888. St. Louis Law School was the predecessor to Washington University School of Law.

Harry lived in Mississippi County, Missouri. In addition to his legal training, he was active in lead mining activities in southeast Missouri. Harry Cantwell drew on both aspects of his life—the law and the lead mine—when he found himself arguing before the Supreme Court in 1905.

“This was after Missouri passed the 40-hour work week,” Philip Cantwell explains. “He was convicted and fined $25 because he worked the miners longer than eight hours per day. He challenged the law, charging that it interfered with his mine’s right to contract. He took the case to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which stated that the ‘right to contract’ was subject to public safety considerations.”

Unfortunately for Harry Cantwell, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Missouri court’s ruling. He returned to Missouri to resume his mining work and help run the family’s orchard in Washington County.

While Philip Cantwell can’t say for sure that he will follow his great-great grandfather’s footsteps to the nation’s highest court, he is well on his way. He is currently clerking for Judge Deborah Cook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Akron, Ohio. Following his clerkship, he will work for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York City.

In the meantime, Harry Cantwell would be proud of his great-great grandson’s accomplishments. Philip was recognized with a Carmody MacDonald Legal Practice Excellence Award, and he served as an editor of the Washington University Law Review.

Then, in spring 2012, the Harvard Law & Policy Review published his article “Relevant ‘Material’: Importing the Principles of Informed Consent and Unconscionability to Analyze Consensual Medical Repatriations.” The article began as a paper for a seminar taught by Stephen Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor.

“I had been refining the article to use as a writing sample for my clerkship applications,” Philip explains. “Then I found a journal that accepted student submissions, and I decided to submit it.” He notes that his was the only student comment to be published in that issue of the journal.

The article proposes a “two-step test” for judges faced with deciding challenges to medical repatriations. Hospitals must provide care when an uninsured immigrant patient arrives with an emergency medical condition, but they cannot receive federal funding for necessary continued care after the immigrant is stabilized. Federal regulations bar the hospital from ‘patient dumping,’ so it faces the question of whether to incur the cost of continuing to treat a patient who is often unable to pay, or use third-party companies to send the patient back to his or her home country for further care.

Philip’s “two-step test” involves use of “informed consent” and “unconscionability”—“familiar tools for judges,” he writes—to make that difficult decision.

“Companies and hospitals should not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to patients solely on account of the patients’ immigration status,” he concludes. “Until Congress takes appropriate action to regulate medical repatriations, these proposed safeguards should be applied to both avoid erroneously repatriating legal immigrants and ensure hospitals are fulfilling a federally mandated responsibility.”

Among the other highlights of his law school career, Philip cites his volunteer work with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. As a first-year law student, he was matched with a Langston Middle School student. He enjoyed serving as a mentor for the young student, Darius, during the ensuing years.

“I enjoyed being able to give back to the community,” he says. “It gave me perspective, and as my great-great grandfather shows, you never know when you might be influencing future generations.”

By Timothy J. Fox