Today in Legal History: Tom Bradley Elected First African American Mayor of Los Angeles

On May 29, 1973, Thomas Bradley became the first African American mayor of Los Angeles. Bradley had served in the Los Angeles police department for over 20 years, and earned his law degree from Southwestern Law School. In 1963, he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council, being one of the first African Americans to serve on the City Council. In the 1960s, America was divided by race, social issues, and politics. In the midst of these tensions Bradley decided to run for mayor in 1963. He was defeated by Sam Yorty. Bradley ran again in 1973 and this time he won becoming the first black mayor of Los Angeles.

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Today in Legal History: U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton

The state of Arkansas imposed term limitations through Amendment 73, a ballot measure that prohibited the listing of any person who served the maximum terms allowed in the U. S. House or Senate on the general election ballot. Soon after the measure was adopted in 1992, Bobbie Hill, the League of Women Voters, and U.S. Representative Ray Thornton filed suit in Arkansas state court alleging that Amendment 73 violated Article I, sections 2 and 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

On May 22, 1995, the Supreme Court decided, in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (514 U.S. 779), that the states could not add to or change the qualifications listed in the U.S. Constitution for those elected to Congress. The Supreme Court ruled that the qualifications listed in the Constitution are inclusive, and therefore no state could impose additional qualifications either directly or indirectly.

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Today in Legal History: Norway’s Constitution Day

Syttende Mai (May 17th) is Norway’s Constitution Day. Norway had been a part of the Danish Autocracy for 400 years, and on May 17, 1814, Norway signed the constitution that declared the country an independent nation. The Norwegian Parliament held the first Syttende Mai celebration in 1836—even though they would not become fully independent until 1905—and from then on the day became Norway’s official National Day.

While Syttende Mai is a national holiday in Norway, it is also a big event here in Seattle. The holiday has been a popular Ballard neighborhood celebration since 1974, with food and activities for the whole family.

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Today in Legal History: First White House Bowling Alley Opens

Truman opened the first White House bowling alley on April 25, 1947. It was a birthday present from his friends. Truman’s first frame was 7 pins (out of 10). One of these pins is now on exhibition with the Smithsonian. Truman wasn’t much of a bowler, and didn’t use the facility much, but White House employees did. White House employees, including Secret Service and custodial staff, started a league. Opposing teams were surprised to find out that the team was, in fact, from the White House.

Eisenhower closed the first alley to make a mimeograph room, but built a second two-lane alley in 1955 in the old Executive Building. President and Lady Bird Johnson made good use of the lanes. Nixon was an avid bowler, so much so he paid for another single-lane, built under the driveway leading to the North Portico of the White House.

The White House Bowling League lives on, although the White House lanes were no longer accessible to the League after 9/11.

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Today in Legal History: Shakespeare Born

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” – 2 King Henry IV, 2

The exact date of Shakespeare’s birth is not known, but based on available evidence, April 23, 1564 was his probable birthday. Admittedly, historians also like the date because Shakespeare died on the same day.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays concerned lawyers or trials; Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, and Measure for Measure are but three examples.

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Today in Legal History: Earth Day

Before 1970 there were no legal or regulatory devices to protect the environment. In the spring of 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson, inspired by the student anti-war movement, created Earth Day as a way to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. On April 22, 1970, Earth Day was observed by millions of Americans who took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to rally for a healthy, sustainable environment. Earth Day was a huge success, and in December 1970 Congress authorized the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle environmental issues.

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Today in Legal History: Bay of Pigs Invasion

On April 17, 1961, a CIA-backed group of Cuban refugees tried to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. As soon as the party landed, they were met with resistance from Castro’s forces, and promised US air support never materialized. Of the 1,200 exiles trying to recapture their homeland, 100 died and the rest were captured.

Not only did the plan fail, it made the situation in Cuba even less desirable to the US government. Castro was able to put pressure on his Soviet allies for more support, and denounced the US to the world. Far from displacing Castro, the actions of the CIA cemented Castro’s control on Cuba, and made new president John F. Kennedy look weak and indecisive.

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Today in Legal History: Webster’s Dictionary of American Language is Printed

Webster’s Dictionary of American Language was printed on April 14, 1818. Compiled and written by Noah Webster, a lawyer, this dictionary was the first to focus on American terminology (including over 10,000 American terms) and helped standardize American spelling.

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Today in Legal History: First Presidential Veto

George Washington was the first president to use his veto power.  On April 5, 1792, he vetoed a bill regarding apportioning representatives in the House which would have increased the number of seats for northern states.
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Today in Legal History: April Fool’s Day

Nobody is sure how April Fool’s Day got started, but the most common theory is the changing of the calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian in France in 1564. The Julian calendar, based on lunar cycles, celebrated the New Year in April. The Gregorian calendar, based on the sun, celebrated the New Year on January 1st. Not everyone was pleased about the new calendar, and some refused to recognize it. These individuals became known as April Fools when they insisted on celebrating the New Year in April.

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