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Today in Legal History: Thurgood Marshall becomes First Black Supreme Court Justice

Thoroughgood “Thurgood” Marshall started work as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on October 2nd, 1967. Marshall had been nominated by Lyndon Johnson after a distinguished career in civil rights, including arguing the landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 for the NAACP. As a child, Marshall had attended a segregated school that sentenced children to read the Constitution as punishment. By the time Marshall left that school, he had the Constitution memorized. After his retirement in 1991, Marshall was replaced by Clarence Thomas. Marshall died in 1993.

For more information, check out:
• Martin Calabro, Great Courtroom Lawyers (4th Floor, KF372.C35 1996)
• Mark V. Tushnet, Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961-1991 (4th Floor, KF8745.M34T87 1997)
• Juan Williams, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary (4th Floor, KF8745.M34W55 1998)


 

Chemerinsky visiting SU Law on April 19

Erwin Chemerinsky is visiting SU Law as part of the Influential Voices lecture series. Chemerinsky is the dean of UC-Irvine Law School and is also a familiar name to law students because he wrote the textbook used in many constitutional law courses across the nation as well as the popular companion Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, which we have in our law library (LAW-Reserve (KF4550.C427 2015).

Chemerinsky is presenting his new book The Case Against the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 19 in Sullivan Hall Room C5 at Noon. A book signing and reception will follow.

The Case Against the Supreme Court is Chemerinsky’s eighth book. Released prior to the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, in this book Chemerinsky argues for term limits and a reassessment of the institution. He is very critical of the Court and uses many examples to point out the how the justices are fallible and the Court’s opinions are often flawed.

 

Want to catch up on Chemerinsky before the big event, check out these books in our library:

Enhancing Government: Federalism for the 21st Century
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4600.C48 2008)

The Conservative Assault on the Constitution
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4550.C426 2010)

If you’re interested in Constitutional Law, you should also check out our LibGuide on the topic!


 

50 Years Ago: Miranda v. Arizona

Fifty years ago, the United States Supreme Court heard and decided the case Miranda v. Arizona. Today, “Miranda rights” and “Mirandizing” are parts of the country’s legal lexicon. The issues in the case involved custodial interrogations and a criminal defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The U.S. Courts website has a “Facts and Case Summary” page that discusses the four cases consolidated into the Miranda decision and the essentials of the Court’s decision. It also mentions that even though his original conviction was overturned, Miranda was subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison.


 

Supreme Court Nomination Process

It does not happen often but the President will soon be nominating a candidate to be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. This often contentious process is described in a research guide available from the Georgetown Law Library. The guide details not only the process, but the history of nominations and citations and (sometimes) links to source documents.


 

Today In Legal History: Roe v. Wade Decided

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued one of the most famous and controversial legal decisions of our era.  Justice Harry Blackmun authored the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.  At the time, news of the decision was pushed off the front page of many newspapers when former President Lyndon B. Johnson died on the same day.  President Nixon had appointed Blackmun only three years before, thinking he would be a “quiet, safe choice.”  The Roe v. Wade decision, however, threw Blackmun into the limelight, where he was alternately adored or hated.

In his recent biography of Blackmun, Tinsley E. Yarbrough focuses on Blackmun’s concerns for “outsiders,” an attitude fueled in part by his own self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, having grown up with a regularly unemployed father and anxious mother, in the humbler area of St. Paul, MN.  Reflecting on his initial days at the Court, Blackmun later confessed desperately wondering if he was qualified to grace the position.

More information is available at:

  • History.com
  • Tinsley E. Yarbrough, Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice, Law Library 4th floor @ KF8745.B555Y37 2008.
  • Jack M. Balkin, What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said: The Nation’s Top Legal Experts Rewrite America’s Most Controversial Decision, Law Library 4th floor @ KF228.R59W47 2005.
  • Marian Faux, Roe v. Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Decision that Made Abortion Legal, Law Library 4th floor @ KF228.R59F38 1988.

 

Today in Legal History: US v. E.C. Knight Decided

January 21, 1895. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed by Congress in 1890 to stop large monopolies from controlling commerce.  The justification for the Sherman Act was the Commerce Clause.  In US v. E.C. Knight, 156 U.S. 1 (1895) the ability of the Sherman Act was heavily curtailed.  The Supreme Court made a distinction between commerce and manufacturing.  If the manufacturing was done within a single state, the Commerce Clause did not apply.  Until the Clayton Act in 1916, sugar and other processing monopolies like the one in US v. E.C. Knight could not be controlled by federal powers.


 

Judge Bork’s Supreme Court Nomination Rejected, October 23rd, 1987

With the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, President Ronald Reagan hoped to place a prominent conservative jurist on the bench. From the outset, his choice of Judge Robert Bork of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit was controversial. As U.S. Solicitor General, he fired special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox on President Nixon’s orders in 1973. The event became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”

Prominent liberal legislators and activists engaged in a vigorous opposition campaign. In a famous speech that later became known as “Bork’s America, “ Senator Ted Kennedy said “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.” President Reagan and conservative supporters considered the speech slanderous but they failed to manage a timely and effective response. Judge Bork’s nomination was rejected by a vote of 42-58.

To learn more:
• Ethan Bronner Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America (Norton 1989) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) KF8742.B74 1989
• Michael Pertschuk The People Rising: The Campaign Against the Bork Nomination (Thunder Mouth Press 1989) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) KF8742.P337 1989
• Mark Gitenstein Matter of Principle: An Insider’s Account of America’s Rejection of Robert Bork’s Nomination to the Supreme Court LAW-4th Floor KF8742.G57 1992


 

Today in Legal History: Sandra Day O’Connor Joins the Supreme Court

Sandra Day O’Connor Joins the Supreme Court, September 25, 1981

On September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor joined the Bench.  She had been nominated by Ronald Reagan, and was the first woman ever to become a Justice.  O’Connor would become a very important swing vote on many decisions, such as Lawrence v. Texas and Bush v. Gore.  She retired in 2005, her seat taken by Samuel Alito.

For more information, check out the following resources:

  • Sandra Day O’Connor, The Majesty of the Law: Reflections by a Supreme Court Justice, Law Library 4th Floor @ KF 8742.O274 2003
  • Joan Biskupic, Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became its Most Influential Member, Law Library 4th floor @ KF8745.O25B57 2005
  • http://www.oyez.org/justices/sandra_day_oconnor Sandra Day O’Connor, Out of Order: Stories From the History of the Supreme Court
  • Robert Zelnick, Swing Dance: Justice O’Connor and the Michigan Muddle LAW-4th Floor    KF8742.Z44 2004

 

Justice Scalia Immortalized on Stage

Justice Scalia is the subject of the new play “The Originalist.” “The play is set in the Supreme Court term that ended in June 2013 with a major victory for gay rights. In the play, Justice Scalia debates that case and others with a liberal law clerk, and their odd-couple relationship, with antagonism shading into affection, gives the play its shape. ‘This is a boxing match,’ said Ms. Smith, the director. ‘What the play does is what any good play does: It humanizes the combatants.'”


 

New and Notable: Scalia: A Court of One

Scalia: A Court of One Bruce Allen Murphy
KF8745.S33M87 201

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. It provides an insightful analysis of Scalia’s role on a Court that, like him, has moved well to the political right, losing public support and ignoring public criticism. To the delight of his substantial conservative following, Scalia’s “originalism” theory has become the litmus test for analyzing, if not always deciding, cases. But Bruce Allen Murphy shows that Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism, mixed with his political partisanship, as by his reading of the Constitution. Murphy also brilliantly analyzes Scalia’s role in major court decisions since the mid-1980s and scrutinizes the ethical controversies that have dogged Scalia in recent years. A Court of One is a fascinating examination of one outspoken justice’s decision not to play internal Court politics, leaving him frequently in dissent, but instead to play for history, seeking to etch his originalism philosophy into American law. – From the publisher.