Remembering Justice Frankfurter

On November 15, 1882, former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was born in Austria. In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt nominated him to the United States Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed his nomination, and he served on the Court until he retired on August 28, 1962. On February 22, 1965, Justice Frankfurter passed away.

Supreme Court

In 1935 the Supreme Court of the United States moved into its own building.

Learn more about his work as a lawyer, presidential advisor, professor, and justice at http://goo.gl/RoPCEe and https://goo.gl/fzzrYV.

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On This Date in Legal History

On February 21, 1936, Barbara Jordan was born. She was a lawyer, educator and trailblazing politician. Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate. While serving in the Senate, members elected her president pro tempore. Then in 1972, she became the first African-American woman from the South elected to the United States House of Representatives. While serving in the House she obtained a coveted seat on the Judiciary Committee. She played a pivotal role during the Watergate impeachment hearings. Learn more at http://goo.gl/KFxzdL and https://goo.gl/MRR6oX.

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The 21st Amendment

On February 20, 1933, Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to repeal prohibition. On December 5, 1933, the Amendment was ratified by the States. Learn more at https://goo.gl/3D0gAw, and watch this interesting newsreel from that period https://goo.gl/gVxqEo.

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Executive Order 9066

After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, West Coast residents became very suspicious of Japanese Americans. They were concerned that they’d assist Japan in further attacking the U.S. The hysteria eventually caused President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, to issue Executive Order 9066. (See FDR’s Order at http://goo.gl/63cQrZ.)

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Executive Order 9066

The Order called for the forced relocation of over 100,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. When the Order was contested at the Supreme Court the government vigorously defended its actions and the Court sided with them. The United States Department of Justice has since issued a “Confession of Error” which can be found at http://goo.gl/hgD9UG.

When you’re in New York, I highly recommend visiting Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and Museum. Take a look at some of the exhibits you’ll see there at https://goo.gl/Wdik6j. The Museum includes an exhibit on Executive Order 9066.

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

In November 1987 President Reagan nominated Judge Anthony Kennedy to the United States Supreme Court. You can watch President Reagan’s press conference at http://goo.gl/hzSncr. At the time he was serving as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On February 3, 1988, the Senate confirmed his nomination, and on February 18, 1988, he was sworn in as an Associate Justice. Take a look at the Congressional Record at http://1.usa.gov/1VBpWin. To learn more, watch this great news clip from Washington Week’s “The Backstory: Justice Anthony Kennedy– The Decider” at http://bit.ly/1HVs7nq.

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On This Date in Legal History

On February 17, 1942, Attorney General Francis Biddle wrote President Roosevelt to express his reservations about the immediate evacuation and internment of Japanese on the west coast. Read his memorandum below.

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Exhibited at the Home of Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site

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On This Date in Legal History

The 5th Amendment states private property can’t “be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In 1822 John Barron brought a lawsuit against the City of Baltimore claiming their actions caused him to lose the use of his wharf— violating his 5th Amendment rights. On February 16, 1833, however, the United States Supreme Court didn’t agree. Chief Justice John Marshall explained– the 5th Amendment was not applicable to states or local governments. It was meant to regulate the federal government. When Baltimore deprived Barron of the use of his land he had no remedy under the Bill of Rights. Notably, that changed after the passage of the 14th Amendment.

Learn more by listening to this video at https://goo.gl/X8uTPx.

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From 1914 to 1932 Benjamin Nathan Cardozo served on the New York State Court of Appeals (initially as an Associate Justice, later as Chief Justice). On February 15, 1932, President Hoover appointed him to the United States Supreme Court where he remained until his death in 1938.

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Today that nomination would be unheard of– a Republican president nominating a Democrat to the Supreme Court.  More surprising in today’s world, however, is that in 1932 the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination.  You can learn more about Justice Cardozo at http://bit.ly/1Kt1vzq.

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Esther Hobart Morris

In February 1870 Esther Hobart Morris “became the first woman to hold judicial office in the modern world.” She was appointed justice of the peace for the South Pass District in Wyoming. A statue of her stands at the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Learn more at https://goo.gl/cH6bSr.

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Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

In January 1916 President Woodrow Wilson appointed Louis D. Brandeis to the United States Supreme Court. His nomination was controversial; nonetheless, the Senate confirmed his appointment in a 47 to 22 vote, and he became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice.

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Justice Louis Brandeis

From June 5, 1916, until February 13, 1939, Justice Brandeis served on the Court. Learn more about him at http://goo.gl/aGNaoB.

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Let’s Celebrate Former President (Attorney) Abe Lincoln

On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Before becoming our 16th President he was a well-respected lawyer. You can learn about his legal career at http://goo.gl/Xa9ix9. President Lincoln is most remembered, however, for his accomplishments as president, including the passage of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. It was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, the same year.

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It took five more years–until 1870–before the 15th Amendment (which was meant to protect against racial discrimination in voting) was finally adopted.

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On This Date in Legal History

On February 11, 1856, the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford was argued before the Supreme Court; and on Mar 6, 1857, the Court held that African-American slaves (and their descendants) were not citizens. Consequently, they had no standing to sue for their freedom in a United States court.

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View at the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Chief Justice Taney wrote, “in the opinion of the court, the legislation and the histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.”  See the original ruling maintained by the National Archives at http://goo.gl/Ub8Cd.

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February is National African American History Month

In honor of National African American History Month, I recommend watching the film “Mr. Civil Rights—Thurgood Marshall & The NAACP.”  The film traces Thurgood Marshall’s life as a civil rights attorney. Prior to becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice, he worked tirelessly to end segregation in the Deep South, where he often put his life in harm’s way. Both former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Elena Kagan are interviewed and they speak of their deepest respect and admiration for him. Justice Kagan states, “I would call him a hero. I would call him the greatest lawyer of the 20th century.” Justice Stevens remarks that Thurgood Marshall is “in the pantheon…for advancing the cause of civil rights.”

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1837 Margaret Morgan was living as a free woman with her children in Pennsylvania, when slaveholders claimed she was their property. Edward Prigg grabbed her and forcibly brought her back to Maryland. He was convicted of kidnapping under Pennsylvania law. He appealed his conviction and on February 8-10, 1842, Prigg v. Pennsylvania was argued before the United States Supreme Court. Sadly, the United States Supreme Court reversed Prigg’s conviction. Justice Story wrote— “We are of opinion that the act of Pennsylvania upon which this indictment is founded, is unconstitutional and void. It purports to punish as a public offence against the state, the very act of seizing and removing a slave by his master, which the Constitution of the United States was designed to justify and uphold.”

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The 11th Amendment

On February 7, 1795, the Eleventh Amendment was ratified.  The Amendment states–

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

The states achieved a windfall from this amendment because it limited lawsuits against them.  Learn more at https://goo.gl/wpNEf7.

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Former Vice President (Attorney) Aaron Burr

On February 6, 1756, Aaron Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey. In addition to becoming Jefferson’s Vice President, he was an officer in the Continental Army, a successful attorney, an Attorney General of New York, an Assemblyman, and a U.S. Senator. Yet, he’s probably best remembered for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

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From the Alexander Hamilton Exhibit at the New York Public Library

Listen to Gore Vidal speak of him at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPlw5RK0e5Q.

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On This Date in Legal History

The United States Supreme Court ruled against some of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, so he wanted to pack the Court with like-minded justices who’d find his reforms constitutional. On February 5, 1937, the President proposed a plan to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

This is the desk and chair that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used in the Oval Office.

This is the desk and chair that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used in the Oval Office.

Watch this illuminating news clip from that era– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glLqH2JGXhY.

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An Entertaining Way to Celebrate Black History Month

The movie Selma is a riveting historical drama that traces the events leading up to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Act struck down voting restrictions in federal, state and local elections. The film deserves the critical acclaim it received– keep a tissue box nearby. It’s a must-see for any civics class. (It’s rated PG-13.) You can read the Act at https://goo.gl/TgOFd1.

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The 15th Amendment

On February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified. The Amendment granted African American men the right to vote. Section 1 states—”The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  To learn more visit the Library of Congress website @ http://goo.gl/vRzN7.

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When the Supreme Court Convened for the 1st Time

On February2, 1790, the Supreme Court had a quorum and convened for the first time. Learn more at http://goo.gl/Livwh8.

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