Adams Appoints Marshall

Critical decisions by the Chief Justice saved the Supreme Court’s independence—and made possible its wide-ranging role today

Most jurists and constitutional scholars today would probably contend that the most controlling precedent to be set in the early republic was laid down in the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision. While a formidable ruling, it was not, however, the decisive moment—at least not to people at the time. The hinge event in the early history of the judiciary was President John Adams’s appointment of John Marshall as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1801.Read more »

Riding The Circuit With Lincoln

A new picture of prairie lawyers coping with bad roads and worse inns on the Illinois frontier, drawn from David Davis’ letters

One of the most important periods in the life of Abraham Lincoln was the time when he “rode the circuit” in central Illinois in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. Prairie lawyers and court officials traveled together from one county seat to another for sessions of the circuit court, moving by atrocious frontier roads and stopping in inns, taverns and boarding houses where accommodation was not always of the best.Read more »

The Great Chief Justice

Neither the Constitution nor the laws but John Marshall made the Court Supreme

By every sensible standard, John Marshall deserves superbly his sobriquet of “the great Chief Justice.” He deserves it, that is, by every standard save only the mincing and squeamish view of a “proper” judicial attitude that prevails in these milk-toast times.

 
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Time Machine

50 Years Ago

March 20, 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain meet in Bermuda. The purpose of the meeting is to patch up differences stemming from Britain’s seizure of the Suez Canal the previous year, which the U.S. opposed. Read more »

1857 - The Dred Scott Decision

On March 6 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision in the case of Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford . Scott was a Missouri slave, and Sanford (whose last name was misspelled in court papers) was a New York businessman who had custody of some family property, including Scott. In 1846 Scott had sued for freedom on the grounds that he and his previous owner, an Army surgeon, had lived in the state of Illinois and the territory of Wisconsin for several years. Slavery was illegal in both places. Read more »

“You Have The Right To Remain Silent”

The strange story behind the most cited case in American history: THE MIRANDA DECISION

Suspect confesses, case closed. Confessions are frequently the best evidence of a crime and, more often than not, the deciding factor in a suspect’s eventual conviction.But what if the confession is coerced?Read more »

A Village Disappeared

On the sixtieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the granddaughter of a Japanese detainee recalls the community he lost and the fight he waged in the Supreme Court to win back the right to earn a living

To the casual visitor, terminal island in Los Angeles Harbor is no more than a complex of dull warehouses and empty lots. The waterfront may feature a lonely boat or two and the streets suffer the occasional rumbling tractor trailer, but few people come here, adding to the gloom of this industrial neighborhood. Read more »

The End Of Racism?

IT’S SAID THAT FLANNERY O’CONNOR WAS THE first graduate of a university writing program to stake a claim to major-writer status. Dinesh D’Souza is a similar figure for the intellectual policy-journalistic training-and-support network that the conservative movement created in the 1970s.Read more »

1954

America looked good to a high school senior then, and that year looks wonderfully safe to us now, but it was a time of tumult for all that, and there were plenty of shadows along with the sunshine

It was a very good year. Certainly it was if you were seventeen. I was a senior in high school in 1954, a member of the class of January 1955, at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. They told us these were the best years of our lives, so we had better enjoy them. We all laughed at that, of course, but as I look back, they may have been right, particularly in September of 1954, when the first Thunderbird and the totally new 1955 Chevy V-8 lit up our limited horizons. Read more »

Naming A Justice

IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN POLITICS AS USUAL

Supreme Court vacancies have provoked fierce, colorful—and wholly partisan—battles since the earliest years of the Republic

When Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the United States Supreme Court last June, politicians and pundits across the country bewailed the President’s succumbing to “politics” when selecting Marshall’s replacement.Read more »