History of the Federal Judiciary

History of the Federal Judiciary

  Olmstead v. United States: The Constitutional Challenges of Prohibition Enforcement

Secondary Sources

Dorothy M. Brown. Mabel Walker Willebrandt: A Study of Power, Loyalty, and Law. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984. This work is the standard biography of a key figure in enforcing Prohibition.

Norman H. Clark. Deliver Us From Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York: Norton, 1976.

Norman H. Clark. The Dry Years: Prohibition and Social Change in Washington. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1965. This is the classic account of Prohibition in Washington with a chapter on the Olmstead case.

Richard F. Hamm. Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Culture, and the Polity, 1880-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. The last chapter is very useful for understanding the nature of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act.

Richard F. Hamm. “Short Euphorias Followed by Long Hangovers: Unintended Consequences of the Eighteenth and Twenty-first Amendments” in David E. Kyvig, editor. Unintended Consequences of Constitutional Amendment. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000, pp. 164–199. Contains a useful section on Prohibition enforcement.

David E. Kyvig. Repealing National Prohibition. 2d ed. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000.

Philip Metcalfe. Whispering Wires: The Tragic Tale of an American Bootlegger. Portland, OR: Inkwater Press, 2007.

Walter F. Murphy. Wiretapping on Trial: A Case Study in the Judicial Process. New York: Random House, 1965.

Robert Post. “Federalism, Positive Law, and the Emergence of the American Administrative State: Prohibition in the Taft Court Era.” William and Mary Law Review. 48 (October 2006): 1–181. The best scholarly account of the Olmstead case in the United States Supreme Court.

Primary Sources


National Archives Pacific NW Region; Record Group 21, Records of the United States District Courts, Western District of Washington, North Divisions, Seattle, Civil, Criminal & Admiralty Case Files, 1912–1928 Criminal Case 9165, United States of America vs. Roy Olmstead, et al. There is no transcript, but the other court papers preserve much of what went on in the trial.


Mabel Walker Willebrandt. The Inside of Prohibition (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1929). This is her account of working in the Justice Department trying to enforce Prohibition compiled from her newspaper articles on the topic.


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