Ernest Knaebel (1911-1916)
Early History/Schooling: Born in Manhasset, New York on June 14, 1872, Ernest Knaebel attended Yale University in the 1890s where he received an undergraduate degree and a law degree.
Tenure as AAG: President Taft appointed Knaebel as the first Assistant Attorney General in charge of public lands. While working to organize the newly created Public Lands Division of the Department of Justice, Knaebel argued many early public and Indian land cases before the Supreme Court. Several months prior to the creation of the Lands Division, Knaebel prepared a brief on the authority of the President to withdraw public lands and establish national reservations. In September 1909, President Taft signed an executive order that withdrew public lands in California and Wyoming. Under this authority, many National Bird Reservations and National Monuments were established. The validity of the executive order was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1915 in the case United States v. Midwest Oil Company (236 U.S. 459), which was argued by Knaebel and Solicitor General John Davis.
Career: After graduating from Yale Law in 1897, Knaebel practiced law in New York City for a year, then moved to Colorado to practice law with his father. From 1902 to 1907, he served as the U.S. Attorney in that state. In 1907, Knaebel moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked as a Special Assistant to Attorney General George W. Wickersham. He remained in that position until being appointed the first AAG of the Public Lands Division in 1911. In 1916, Knaebel was appointed the 11th Reporter of Decisions for the Supreme Court and remained in that position until 1944. He was the Court’s longest serving Reporter and edited 80 volumes of reports during his tenure.
Personal: Knaebel married Cornelia Park. They two had two sons and a daughter.
This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Division, please contact ENRD.