On This Date in Legal History

On May 23, 1889, Mabel Walker Willebrandt was born. From 1921 to 1929 she was the Assistant Attorney General of the United States responsible for enforcing prohibition (the Volstead Act).

Mabel_Willebrandt-1

Mabel Willebrandt

To learn more about this remarkable attorney, read Can This Woman Make America Dry, published on August 9, 1924, at http://bit.ly/1IRAQMb, and watch this informative video at http://goo.gl/cIDBNw.

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Congratulations 2017 Graduates!

Looking for that perfect graduation gift?  Check out the award-winning, unique, fun, LAWSUIT!™ board game at http://www.lawsuitgame.com.

LAWSUIT! Board Game

LAWSUIT! Board Game

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 21, 1969, President Nixon announced that he was nominating Judge Warren Burger of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be the 15th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Read the President’s remarks at https://goo.gl/dS2mFY.  On June 9, 1969, the Senate confirmed his appointment in a 74-3 vote.  Justice Burger remained on the court for over 17 years.  During his tenure Roe v. Wade was handed down.

Warren Burger was the 15th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Warren Burger was the 15th Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court

He may be best remembered, however, for his opinion in United States v. Nixon.  That decision led to the president’s resignation– the Court unanimously held that President Nixon couldn’t claim executive privilege when the special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation subpoenaed relevant tapes and documents from the oval office.

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Supreme Court Justice William Brennan

On October 15, 1956, President Eisenhower appointed William Brennan to the high court. On July 20, 1990, Justice Brennan retired after serving on the Supreme Court for over 33 years. In July 1997, he passed away, but his legacy lives on through his 1,573 judicial opinions.

Official portrait of Justice William J. Brennan, taken in 1972

Official portrait of Justice William J. Brennan, taken in 1972

For an extremely thorough biography of the Justice, and a reflection on the decisions he authored, read the Proceedings in the Supreme Court of the United States in Memory of Justice Brennan, dated May 22, 1998 at http://1.usa.gov/1HKJ4B4.

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 19, 1921, former Chief Justice Edward Douglas White passed away. He served on the United States Supreme Court for 26 years. He was the first Associate Justice to become a Chief Justice on the high court.

Edward Douglass White Jr.

Edward Douglass White Jr.

More noteworthy, however, is that on the same day he was nominated to each position the Senate confirmed his appointment. That’s unheard of today. Learn more about Justice White at http://goo.gl/2bSwKv.

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1890 the Louisiana legislature enacted a statute that required railroad companies to provide “for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races.”  The races weren’t permitted to sit together.  Any passenger who violated the law was subject to a fine or imprisonment.  On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy boarded a train and sat down in a car designated for whites only.  He was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black.  When asked to change cars he refused, so he was forcefully removed by a police officer, imprisoned, and charged with violating the state law.  His case made its way up to the Supreme Court– the issue was whether the Louisiana law was constitutional.

Justice Henry Billings Brown

Justice Henry Billings Brown

On May 18, 1896, Justice Brown wrote the majority opinion, stating that–  “we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable….” Justice Harlan, in a dissenting opinion, came to a more enlightened conclusion.  He wrote, “[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”  It took until 1954 for the Supreme Court to finally overturn the Plessy decision in Brown v. Board of Education.  Brown dealt with the issue of segregation in public schools.  The Court wrote, “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.  Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The Court unanimously held that the doctrine of “separate but equal” is inherently unequal, so it ordered the integration of public schools, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.

Psychologists used these dolls to test the effects of segregation on black children. A majority of the children tested preferred the white doll. The psychologists concluded that segregation caused a feeling of inferiority and damaged the children's self-esteem. This information provided crucial evidence in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

Psychologists used these dolls to test the effects of segregation on black children. A majority of children preferred the white doll. The psychologists concluded that segregation caused a feeling of inferiority, and damaged the children’s self-esteem. This information provided crucial evidence in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

Learn more by listening to this excellent C-Span program at https://goo.gl/B0i1J0.

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On This Date in Legal History

On February 7, 1946, Arthur Terminiello delivered a controversial speech at a Christian Veterans of America meeting. In response to the views he expressed, protesters threw rocks, stones, and bricks that broke windows and doors. The police were unable to effectively contain the situation. Terminiello was tried and convicted of violating a Chicago ordinance that prohibited “breach of the peace”. He appealed his conviction arguing that his First Amendment rights were violated.

Rev. Arthur Terminiello purportedly reading the Supreme Court decision in his favor.

Rev. Arthur Terminiello purportedly reading the Supreme Court decision.

On May 16, 1949, the United States Supreme Court agreed with him and overturned his conviction. Justice Douglas wrote— “a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute [citation omitted] is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.”


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Looking for a unique fun grad gift?

Check out the LAWSUIT!™ board game at https://goo.gl/eMVzU3.

LAWSUIT!™ Board Game

LAWSUIT!™ Board Game

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On This Date in Legal History

Gerald Gault and a friend allegedly made an obscene phone call to a neighbor. On June 8, 1964, both boys were taken into custody. After a hearing Gerald was committed to the State Industrial School until he was 21. His parents sought his release. A lower court dismissed their petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Gaults appealed to the Supreme Court where they argued that the Juvenile Code of Arizona was unconstitutional, because it permitted the state to detain and commit a juvenile to a state institution without providing procedural due process (i.e. notice of any and all formal charges, the right to counsel, the right to confront one’s accuser, etc).

Attorney Amelia Dietrich Lewis with Gerald Francis Gault

Attorney Amelia Dietrich Lewis with Gerald Francis Gault

On May 15, 1967, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision. Justice Fortas, who delivered the opinion for the court, explained–  “Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court. The traditional ideas of Juvenile Court procedure, indeed, contemplated that time would be available and care would be used to establish precisely what the juvenile did and why he did it — was it a prank of adolescence or a brutal act threatening serious consequences to himself or society unless corrected?” Watch this excellent video that further explains this case at https://goo.gl/14JN0d.

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On This Date in Legal History

Lyndon Johnson met former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas when they were both working in Washington, D.C. in the late 30s. Then in 1948, Fortas helped Johnson win a highly contested Senate seat. Johnson viewed Fortas as a trusted advisor, so when a Supreme Court seat opened up during his presidency in 1965, it was not surprising that he nominated him as Associate Justice. On August 11, 1965, the Senate confirmed his nomination. When Chief Justice Earl Warren retired, President Johnson nominated his friend to replace him, but this time his appointment was vigorously opposed. Johnson withdrew the nomination (http://goo.gl/CWdprN). Justice Fortas served on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice for 4 years.

Justice Abe Fortas

Justice Abe Fortas

On May 14, 1969, he resigned under a threat of impeachment after certain financial dealings (involving convicted financier Louis E. Wolfson) came to light. On April 5, 1982, he passed away. Learn more about the justice at http://goo.gl/832RPt and http://goo.gl/VW5Tv1.

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On This Date in Legal History

Chae Chan Ping, a Chinese immigrant, lived and worked as a laborer in San Francisco from 1875 until 1887. In 1887 he returned to China for a visit. Prior to leaving he obtained a certificate that confirmed his right to re-enter the United States. Upon his return, however, custom-house officers denied him re-entry. While he was abroad, Congress passed legislation that barred Chinese laborers from returning to the United States. Chae Chan Ping filed a writ of habeas corpus asking the court to order his re-entry; however, his petition was denied. On March 28 and 29, 1889, his case was argued before the United States Supreme Court.

Chae-Chan-Ping-Reentry-Certificate

Chae Chan Ping’s reentry certificate. Source: In re Chae Chan Ping, No. 10100, Oct. 11, 1888, U.S. Cir. Ct. N. Dist. Calif., Records of the District Courts of the U.S., RG 21, National Archives, Pacific Coast Reg., San Bruno, Calif.,

On May 13, 1889, the Court handed down a decision which sided with the government. Justice Field delivered the opinion of the Court– which you can read at https://goo.gl/nnsoE1. The decision includes a history lesson on the relations between China and the United States in the 1800s. Justice Field explains what triggered the new law — Chinese immigrants were taking jobs away from Americans, and not assimilating, which fueled conflict between the races. Congress responded by restricting Chinese immigration.

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On This Date in Legal History

President Nixon nominated Harry A. Blackmun to the United States Supreme Court. At the time he was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Justice Harry Blackmun

Justice Harry Blackmun

On May 12, 1970, the Senate confirmed his nomination by a vote of 94-0 vote. See the Congressional Record at http://goo.gl/I5Gboq. He remained on the Supreme Court for 24 years. Learn more about Justice Blackmun at https://goo.gl/ad3tKl and https://goo.gl/ESq4pe.

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg, a Pentagon analyst, turned over to the New York Times, Washington Post, and other newspapers, a classified file widely known as the “Pentagon Papers”.  The file revealed  that the government was providing the American public with false information to justify its continued involvement in the Vietnam War.

pentagon-papers

Criminal charges were brought against Ellsberg for the leak, but on May 11, 1973, Judge Byrne granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss all charges against him. Read more about Daniel Ellsberg and his criminal trial at http://goo.gl/hSZ4Og.

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 10, 2010, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 63-37. See the Senate Roll Call at http://goo.gl/sCXFAA.

 Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Elena Kagan

Justice Elena Kagan

On August 7, 2010, she was sworn in as an Associate Justice– becoming the fourth woman to sit on the highest court. Prior to her confirmation, she was Solicitor General of the United States from March 2009 – August 2010, and dean of Harvard Law School from  2003-2009. Learn more about Justice Kagan at https://goo.gl/0Cu09l.

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 9, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began its formal investigation into the possible impeachment of President Nixon.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Congressman Peter Rodino

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Congressman Peter W. Rodino, Jr.

Take a look at the U.S. Government Printing Office’s “History of Proceedings” at https://goo.gl/mOe2xn.

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Remembering Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell was an African-American civil rights activist. She fought to desegregate Washington D.C.

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell

In 1949, when she and others visited a segregated popular restaurant, John R. Thompson Co., Inc., they refused to serve those who weren’t white. A lawsuit ensued that eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. The Court held that the restaurant’s refusal to serve anyone based solely on his or her race was illegal in D.C. You can read the opinion at https://goo.gl/JMSM9k.

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The 27th Amendment

On May 7, 1992, the 27th Amendment to our Constitution was ratified.  The Amendment reads–

National_Constitution_Center

Visit the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to learn more about the U.S. Constitution.

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened”.

Simply put, if Congressional members vote to increase (or decrease) their pay, no change will take effect until the next election.  This restriction was intended to prevent Congress from granting itself a pay increase without the electorate’s approval.  Learn more at https://goo.gl/zugrac.

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 6, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur approved the Chinese Exclusion Act.

After the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, Chinese attempting to migrate to America underwent more thorough medical examinations than their European counterparts. Treatable conditions were sometimes used as an excuse to deny entry. (The New York Historical Society Chinese Exclusion Act Exhibit.)

After the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, Chinese attempting to migrate to America underwent more thorough medical examinations than their European counterparts. Treatable conditions were sometimes used as an excuse to deny entry. (The New York Historical Society Chinese Exclusion Act Exhibit.)

You can view the original document at http://1.usa.gov/1mzgAVr, and learn how this law restricted Chinese immigration by visiting our Pinterest page at https://goo.gl/pEVlSq.

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On This Date in Legal History

On May 5, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided Town of Greece v. Galloway. The Court (in a 5:4 decision) held that reciting a prayer before a town meeting doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

29fa09727ba1b6b2bf95f96dfcc0239d

This is the entranceway into the United States Supreme Court Chamber in Washington, D.C.

Read more about this case at http://goo.gl/VNDUpv. You can also listen to the oral argument and opinion announced at http://goo.gl/JdCF6Q.

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