On This Date in Legal History

In August 1960, African American boys and girls entered a nationwide chain store, S. H. Kress, in Greenville, South Carolina, and sat at a lunch counter designated for whites only. The store manager turned off the lights, announced the lunch counter was closed and called the police. He did what the local law required. A Greenville City Ordinance prohibited integration of the races at eating establishments. The law specified the races couldn’t sit within thirty-five feet of one another, and they were prohibited from using the same utensils and dishes. The boys and girls were arrested and convicted of trespass. On November 7, 1962, their case– Peterson v. City of Greenville– was argued before the Supreme Court. You can hear the attorneys’ oral argument at http://goo.gl/ycUC4k. In May 1963 the Supreme Court reversed the convictions.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 6, 1991, the case of Lee v. Weisman was argued before the United Staters Supreme Court Daniel Weisman sued his daughter’s public school to bar them from inviting clergy to offer invocation and benediction prayers at her graduation. Weisman claimed that the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court ruled (in a 5 -4 decision) in his favor.

For more information watch this interview with plaintiffs Daniel Weisman and his daughter.

To learn more watch this C-Span interview with Daniel Weisman and his daughter.

Justice Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion, explained– “The sole question presented is whether a religious exercise may be conducted at a graduation ceremony in circumstances where, as we have found, young graduates who object are induced to conform. No holding by this Court suggests that a school can persuade or compel a student to participate in a religious exercise. That is being done here, and it is forbidden by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” You can read the entire decision at https://goo.gl/CAZJWF.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 5, 1872, suffragist Susan B. Anthony cast her vote in a congressional election. She was subsequently arrested since women didn’t have the right to vote. (That right didn’t exist until 48 years later.)

The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum showcases artifacts from the women's rights movement.

The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum showcases artifacts from the women’s rights movement.

Learn more at http://goo.gl/LvfptD and http://goo.gl/JLEPQR.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 4, 1992, oral arguments took place in the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah case at the United States Supreme Court. The question presented was- did the City of Hialeah violate the Church’s constitutional rights when it passed resolutions to prohibit their animal sacrifice ceremony. The Court held that it did.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Justice Kennedy, who authored the Court’s opinion, explained—“Legislators may not devise mechanisms, overt or disguised, designed to persecute or oppress a religion or its practices. The laws here in question were enacted contrary to these constitutional principles, and they are void.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 3, 1845, Edward Douglass White was born. In 1894 President Cleveland nominated him to the United States Supreme Court, and that same year he was sworn in as an Associate Justice.

9th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Edward Douglass White

9th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Edward Douglass White

He was eventually promoted to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Learn more at http://goo.gl/yDPLJC.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 2, 1983, President Reagan signed into law a bill making Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday.  He delivered a speech that day which paid homage to Dr. King’s accomplishments that you can read at https://goo.gl/WkDCMY.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

You should also take a look at the congressional history leading up to the passage of this bill at https://goo.gl/ojTSKG. Martin Luther King Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in January.

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On This Date in Legal History

On November 1, 1976, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Bounds v. Smith.  North Carolina inmates claimed their constitutional rights were violated because they weren’t able to conduct legal research at their prisons.  The Court agreed in a. 6-3 decision.

Justice Thurgood Marshall

Justice Thurgood Marshall

Justice Thurgood Marshall, writing for the majority of the Court, explained—“We hold…that the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 31, 2005, President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court. At the time he was a justice on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Samuel Alito

The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination by a vote of 58 to 42. Learn more about Justice Alito at http://goo.gl/QlPPCe.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 30, 1735, John Adams was born. He was the first attorney-president. As a lawyer, he’s probably best remembered for defending British soldiers at the Boston Massacre trials.

John Adams

John Adams

It’s also worthy of note that he’s credited for drafting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Constitution, which served as a model for our U.S. Constitution. Learn more at http://goo.gl/N652FL.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 29, 1969, the United States Supreme Court decided Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education.

An integrated classroom at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. in 1957. Courtesy of the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

A classroom at Anacostia H.S. in Washington, D.C. in 1957. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division

The Court held that schools must desegregate immediately. The opinion states–“No person is to be effectively excluded from any school because of race or color.”

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the “National Prohibition Act”. The Act (also commonly known as the “Volstead Act”) spelled out how prohibition was to be enforced. The law remained in effect until the 21st Amendment was passed.

Orange County Sheriff's deputies dumping illegal liquor in Santa Ana. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

Orange County Sheriff’s deputies dumping illegal liquor in Santa Ana. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

You can read the Act in the Congressional Record at https://goo.gl/piDWoj. Enjoy this short, entertaining, fictional clip that attempts to reenact what life was like once the Act went into effect– http://goo.gl/rKghLa.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 26, 1956, Annette Abbott Adams passed away.  She graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1912.  In 1914, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  She handled federal prosecutions in the Northern District of California.

Annette Abbott Adams

Annette Abbott Adams

In 1920, she became the first woman to serve as an Assistant Attorney General of the United States.  In 1942, the Governor of California appointed her to the appellate court in Sacramento. In 1950, she was asked to preside over a case before the California Supreme Court, becoming the first woman to sit on that Court.  When she wasn’t working for the government, she was a well-respected attorney in private practice.  To learn more visit https://goo.gl/NTqTu0.  If you’re interested in current statistics about women lawyers, check out the American Bar Association’s “A Current Glance at Women in the Law” at https://goo.gl/GCcVJo.

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1789 George Washington nominated John Blair, Jr. to the United States Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Senate, and served on the court until October 25, 1795.

John Blair Jr.

John Blair Jr.

Learn more about Justice Blair at https://goo.gl/Qatd4b and https://goo.gl/TuVp8.

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On This Date in Legal History

Today is United Nations Day.  Learn more at https://goo.gl/ABVtoi.

UN General Assembly Hall

UN General Assembly Hall

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On This Date in Legal History

In July 1991 President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.  Thomas was only 43 years old.  His confirmation hearings were contentious.  A former employee, Anita Hill, testified that Thomas sexually harassed her years earlier. Thomas vehemently denied the allegation and called it a “high-tech lynching”.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas

The Senate ultimately confirmed his nomination, and he was sworn in on October 23, 1991.  Listen to these interesting interviews with Justice Thomas at the Federalist Society at https://goo.gl/36XMzP, and at Duquesne Law School at https://goo.gl/uLBYGK.  He’s quite frank about his upbringing, career and the inner workings of the Court.

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A Legal-Themed Board Game for Ages 8 and Up

LAWSUIT! BOARD GAME:  Step into a lawyer’s shoes with this light, legal-themed, board game. Players face whimsical legal scenarios and the choices lawyers make every day– whether to pursue a settlement, accept a verdict or appeal, practice solo or in a partnership.

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LAWSUIT! introduces players as young as 8 years old to how our justice system works, whether on family game night or in a social studies or civics class. Join the fun, and play the only legal-themed board game designed with the whole family in mind. Learn more at www.lawsuitgame.com or at https://goo.gl/aSJdAj.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 21, 1971, President Nixon nominated William H. Rehnquist to replace Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan on the United States Supreme Court.  In December of the same year, the Senate confirmed his nomination. Fifteen years later, President Reagan nominated him, and he was confirmed by the Senate, to replace Chief Justice Warren Burger.

William Hubbs Rehnquist

William Hubbs Rehnquist

Listen to this short news clip following Justice Rehnquist’s death at http://goo.gl/mgpwYe. It succinctly reviews the Rehnquist Court, and how its holdings shifted to the right under the Justice’s stewardship.  ­­­You can also learn more at The Rehnquist Center at https://goo.gl/ikjpME.

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On This Date in Legal History

In 1964 James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Michael Schwerner traveled to Mississippi to help African-Americans register to vote, but in the process were murdered.

James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Michael Schwerner

James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Michael Schwerner

The United States Justice Department filed charges against eighteen defendants for violating the civil rights of the three victims. On October 20, 1967, seven men were found guilty. You can read the trial transcript at http://goo.gl/j73MQq. Also, there’s an excellent documentary called Neshoba: The Price of Freedom. The film focuses on Edgar Ray Killlen’s trial. He purportedly organized the murders.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 19, 1961, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Hoyt v. Florida. The case arose after an all-male jury convicted Gwendolyn Hoyt of killing her husband. Hoyt argued the lack of women on her jury left her at a disadvantage. She felt “women jurors would have been more understanding or compassionate than men in assessing the quality of [her] act and her defense of ‘temporary insanity.'” She asserted that Florida’s law–excluding women from jury service unless they proactively registered with the clerk of the court– was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court disagreed.

John Marshall Harlan II

John Marshall Harlan II

Justice Harlan explained the Constitution “does not entitle one accused of [a] crime to a jury tailored to the circumstances of the particular case, whether relating to the sex or other condition of the defendant, or to the nature of the charges to be tried.” The Court also found that it was reasonable to exempt women from jury service–because unlike men, “they were responsible for home and family life.” Hoyt’s conviction was affirmed. You can listen to the attorneys argue this case before the Supreme Court at https://goo.gl/cXhB1H. Notably, the Court overruled the Hoyt decision in Taylor v. Louisiana. Learn more at https://goo.gl/uxYNIx.

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On This Date in Legal History

On October 17, 1967, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Katz v. United States. Katz was arrested after the government placed an eavesdropping device on the outside of a telephone booth he used to discuss criminal activity. The government listened in on, and recorded his conversations. Katz argued his constitutional rights were violated. Both Katz and the government focused their arguments on whether the phone booth was a “constitutionally protected area.” However, Justice Stewart, writing for the majority of the Court, explained– the Fourth Amendment “protects people not places.” The Court held that Katz had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. You can listen to the attorneys argue this case at https://goo.gl/rdxeaS.

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