The First African-American Woman Lawyer

Charlotte E. Ray was the first African-American woman to graduate Howard University School of Law, be admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar, and thereafter practice law.

Charlotte E. Ray

Charlotte E. Ray

Read the Congressional Record at https://goo.gl/40zmeP, and learn more about this trailblazer at http://goo.gl/6cTX7B.

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On This Date in Legal History

Charles Hamilton Houston was born on September 3, 1895, and died on April 22, 1950. He was a remarkable African-American attorney who played a key role in ending segregation in the United States.

Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston

He’s probably best remembered (along with former United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall) for successfully challenging the application of the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education. Learn more by watching this short video at http://goo.gl/F8F8M2.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 21, 1976, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Meachum v. Fano. State prisoners, who were believed to be disruptive, sued to prevent their transfer to a less desirable facility. The issue on appeal was—is it a violation of the 14th Amendment (the Due Process Clause) for a State to unilaterally transfer an inmate to another prison without conducting a fact-finding hearing? On June 25, 1976, the United States Supreme Court held, in a 6-3 decision, that it wasn’t unconstitutional.  The Court found inmates enjoy no entitlement to reside at a particular prison.

80f9ee0e35c62e590ecce0aee10bada5Justice White explained–”The Constitution does not…guarantee that the convicted prisoner will be placed in any particular prison if, as is likely, the State has more than one correctional institution. The initial decision to assign the convict to a particular institution is not subject to audit under the Due Process Clause, although the degree of confinement in one prison may be quite different from that in another. The conviction has sufficiently extinguished the defendant’s liberty interest to empower the State to confine him in any of its prisons.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 20, 1920, retired United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was born in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about Justice Stevens at https://goo.gl/JnYDLz.

Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 19,1994, the United States Supreme Court held in J.E.B. v. Alabama that the Equal Protection clause prohibits gender-based discrimination during jury selection.

The jury box

The jury box

Justice Blackmun, who authored the majority opinion, explained– “Equal opportunity to participate in the fair administration of justice is fundamental to our democratic system. It not only furthers the goals of the jury system. It reaffirms the promise of equality under the law — that all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, have the chance to take part directly in our democracy. [citation excluded] (“Indeed, with the exception of voting, for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process”). When persons are excluded from participation in our democratic processes solely because of race or gender, this promise of equality dims, and the integrity of our judicial system is jeopardized.” Listen to an interesting news conference about this case at the Supreme Court at http://goo.gl/HsgWqi.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 14, 1968, Vietnam protesters attempted to disseminate literature against the draft and war at Lloyds Center in Portland, Oregon. The mall had a policy, however, that prohibited the distribution of handbills on its premises that had no relation to the Center’s operation. After a patron complained, security threatened to arrest the protesters if they continued to violate the Center’s rules. A lawsuit ensued– Lloyd Corporation v. Tanner.

This is the front portico of the United States Supreme Court Building. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law in the United States.

This is the front portico of the United States Supreme Court Building. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law in the United States.

On April 18, 1972, the case was argued before the Supreme Court. The question presented was–does a mall, open to the public, have a right to prevent visitors from exercising their First Amendment rights on their privately-owned property? You can listen to the court proceedings at https://goo.gl/QF1VrP.  On June 22, 1972, the Court held (in a 5-4 decision) Lloyds Center could prohibit others from distributing literature on their premises. You can read the Court’s opinion at https://goo.gl/0NzQMP.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 17, 1905, the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Lochner v. New York. Joseph Lochner was the owner of a bakery in Utica, New York. He was arrested after permitting one of his bakers to work more than 60 hours in a week, in violation of a New York labor law. The question before the Court was– did the New York law violate the 14th Amendment by interfering with an employer’s right to contract with his or her employee. The Court held in Lochner’s favor (in a 5-4 decision) finding the law unconstitutional.

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Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham served on the United States Supreme Court from 1896 to 1909

Justice Rufus Peckham, who authored the court’s majority opinion, wrote– “The statute necessarily interferes with the right of contract between the employer and employee, concerning the number of hours in which the latter may labor in the bakery of the employer. The general right to make a contract in relation to his business is part of the liberty of the individual protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Under that provision no State can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” I highly recommend you watch this very informative C-Span program about the Lochner decision, and its aftermath at https://goo.gl/TBgd8a.

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On This Date in Legal History

In Baze v. Rees two death row inmates challenged the lethal injection protocol used in Kentucky death penalty cases. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that the “procedures pose a danger of cruelly inhumane executions.”

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued this case on behalf of

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. served as Solicitor General of the United States from June 2011 to June 2016

On April 16, 2008, the United States Supreme Court disagreed (in a 7-2 decision), and found the protocol constitutional under the 8th Amendment.Chief Justice Roberts explained–“Kentucky has adopted a method of execution believed to be the most humane available, one it shares with 35 other States.” You can listen to the court proceedings at https://goo.gl/V18BZt.

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On This Date in Legal History

Prior to becoming an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, Byron R. White was a college football star (visit the College Football Hall of Fame at http://goo.gl/aIJXyq), and played professionally with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Lions. After graduating Yale Law School, he clerked at the Supreme Court, and then worked in private practice in his home state of Colorado.

Justice Byron R. White served on the Supreme Court from April 16, 1962 – June 28, 1993

Justice Byron R. White served on the Supreme Court from April 16, 1962 – June 28, 1993

After assisting John Kennedy with his presidential campaign, he was tapped for Deputy Attorney General. While at the Department of Justice, in March 1962, the President nominated him to the Supreme Court. The Senate quickly confirmed his nomination, and he remained on the Court for 31 years. On April 15, 2002, former Justice White passed away. Learn more about this Justice by listening to Dennis Hutchinson, author of The Man Who Once Was Whizzer White: A Portrait of Justice Byron R. White at http://goo.gl/gboSGT.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 14, 1970, President Nixon nominated Harry A. Blackmun to the United States Supreme Court.  On May 12, 1970, the Senate confirmed his nomination (94-0).  Take a look at the Congressional Record @ http://goo.gl/uStXuR.  This was the second time the Justice was confirmed by the Senate to sit on a federal court.  In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit (that includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota). Justice Blackmun was on the federal bench for 34 years, in total, twenty-four of those years on the Supreme Court.  He was initially viewed as a conservative, but that changed after he authored the controversial Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which affirmed a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester.

Justice Blackmun

Justice Blackmun

Justice Blackmun wrote, “the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution.”  That right is “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”  See the entire decision at https://goo.gl/W0S4a5.  If you’d like to learn more about Justice Blackmun, you should watch this interview at http://goo.gl/Ld651s.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 13, 1942, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Betts v. Brady. The question presented was– did the State of Maryland have a constitutional duty to appoint legal counsel to assist an indigent defendant indicted for robbery.  On June 1, 1942, the Court held that it didn’t.

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Owen J. Roberts served on the Supreme Court from Jun 2, 1930 — Jul 31, 1945

Justice Roberts, who delivered the opinion of the Court, explained–“As we have said, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the conviction and incarceration of one whose trial is offensive to the common and fundamental ideas of fairness and right, and while want of counsel in a particular case may result in a conviction lacking in such fundamental fairness, we cannot say that the amendment embodies an inexorable command that no trial for any offense, or in any court, can be fairly conducted and justice accorded a defendant who is not represented by counsel.”  Read the entire decision at https://goo.gl/fqejvL.  Notably, the Supreme Court overruled this decision in Gideon v. Wainwright. Learn more at http://goo.gl/wNoo4W.

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On This Date in Legal History

The case of Gitlow v. New York was argued before the United States Supreme Court on April 12, 1923. The underlying facts were as follows– Benjamin Gitlow, an active member of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party, arranged for the printing and distribution of an essay, “The Left Wing Manifesto.” A jury convicted him under a New York Penal Code statute that prohibited “criminal anarchy”. Gitlow appealed his conviction alleging that the New York law was unconstitutional, but on June 8, 1925, the Supreme Court held otherwise.

Justice_Edward_Terry_Sanford

Justice Edward T. Sanford was on the Supreme Court from Feb 19, 1923 — Mar 8, 1930

Justice Edward T. Sanford, who delivered the opinion of the Court explained, “the Constitution, does not confer an absolute right to speak or publish, without responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and unbridled license that gives immunity for every possible use of language and prevents the punishment of those who abuse this freedom.” Notably, the law in this area has evolved. You might want to read Brandenburg v. Ohio at https://goo.gl/gfmRNZ.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 11, 1862, Charles Evans Hughes was born. From 1910-1916 he was an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, and from 1930 to 1941 he was the Chief Justice. He was the 39th Governor of New York (1907-1910), and he served as Secretary of State (1921-1925).  For years he practiced as a lawyer (his firm still exists today) and he taught law. He was a very well-respected jurist.

Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes

Robert H. Jackson once said of Justice Hughes– “[H]e looks like God and talks like God.” I highly recommend you listen to C-Span’s program on Justice Charles Evans Hughes @ https://goo.gl/0aL5lr.

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1956 the State Department refused to act upon applications for passports filed by American citizens, Rockwell Kent and Walter Briehl, who were allegedly affiliated with the Communist Party. Both men sued. The District Court dismissed their case, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. On April 10, 1958, the case of Kent v. Dulles was argued before the United States Supreme Court. You can listen to the proceedings at https://goo.gl/hMS79W. On June 16, 1958, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision in a 5:4 opinion.

Justice_William_O_Douglas

Associate Justice William O Douglas

Justice Douglas, writing for the majority, explained– “we deal here with a constitutional right of the citizen, a right which we must assume Congress will be faithful to respect. We would be faced with important constitutional questions were we to hold that Congress…had given the Secretary authority to withhold passports to citizens because of their beliefs or associations. Congress has made no such provision in explicit terms; and absent one, the Secretary may not employ that standard to restrict the citizens’ right of free movement.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 9, 2010, United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens sent a letter to President Obama stating that he was retiring from the Court. He had served as an Associate Justice for 35 years. President Ford nominated him in 1975.

Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens

During an interview at Georgetown University Law Center he discussed– what led him to pursue a legal career; his nomination and work on the Supreme Court; as well as his admiration for President Ford and former Justices Wiley Rutledge, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall.  He also spoke of the need for six constitutional amendments. You can listen to this very informative interview at http://goo.gl/czh3uD.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 8, 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified. The Amendment addresses the election of senators to Congress. It provides for the people to elect new senators (versus the state legislatures).  The Amendment states–

United_States_Constitution 2

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

 

The Amendment goes on to clarify what happens in the event a senator doesn’t complete his or her term in office.  View the original document at http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=58.

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On This Date in Legal History

Today the Senate voted (54-45) to confirm Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Learn more about the judge at https://goo.gl/znzU4U and https://goo.gl/aOo4JN.

Judge_Gorsuch_official_portrait

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On This Date in Legal History

President Trump has proclaimed April 7– “Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.”  Read the President’s proclamation at https://goo.gl/PjmVf2.  Learn more at https://goo.gl/83NtVN.

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On This Date in Legal History

Mabel Walker Willebrandt was a trailblazing female attorney.  She’s best remembered for her work at the Department of Justice where she was in charge of the division responsible for enforcing the Volstead Act.  She successfully prosecuted many bootleggers.

Mabel_Willebrandt-1

Mabel Walker Willebrandt

Listen to this illuminating video at http://goo.gl/fSaIpT.  On April 6, 1963, she passed away.

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On This Date in Legal History

On April 5, 1816, former Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller was born in Kentucky.  By today’s standards he had a more unconventional background for a justice– he worked as a physician for about 10 years.  While practicing medicine, however, he decided to study law, and in 1847 he passed the Kentucky bar.  A few years later, because he didn’t agree with Kentucky’s position on slavery, he moved to Iowa.  There he formed a law firm partnership– Reeves and Miller– and became active in the Republican Party.  In 1862 President Lincoln nominated him to the United States Supreme Court.

Samuel_Freeman_Miller_-_Brady-Handy

Associate Justice Samuel F. Miller served on the United States Supreme Court from 1862 to 1890.

On July 21, 1862, Justice Taney swore him in as an Associate Justice, and he remained on the Court until his death.  Learn more about this Justice at http://goo.gl/iHEkNy.

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