Category Archives: History of the Court

The Rise and Fall of the No-Litmus-Test Rule

For decades, presidential candidates disclaimed the idea that they would have “litmus tests” for their nominees to the Supreme Court. Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that to demand that their judicial nominees decide particular cases particular ways would be wrong. Judicial litmus tests were bad. They were what candidates accused opponents of having. In the … Continue reading The Rise and Fall of the No-Litmus-Test Rule

The Court and the 2016 Election—Lessons From History

When it comes to the role of the Supreme Court on the presidential campaign trail, how does the 2016 election compare to past elections? For all its precedent-shattering and unpredictable qualities, the 2016 campaign basically fell into a predictable dynamic when it came to the candidates’ treatment of the Court. As I discussed in my … Continue reading The Court and the 2016 Election—Lessons From History

The Supreme Court and the 2016 Presidential Election

What role did the Supreme Court play in the 2016 election? This is the question I consider in an article that will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Chicago-Kent Law Review. The article is based on a paper I presented at a symposium organized by ISCOTUS last fall; the law review will be … Continue reading The Supreme Court and the 2016 Presidential Election

On This Day in Supreme Court History—March 17, 1954

On this day in 1954, William Brennan gave a speech that cost him a unanimous vote in the Senate when he was later nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brennan, then a judge on the New Jersey Supreme Court, spoke at the St. Patrick’s Day dinner of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. He chose … Continue reading On This Day in Supreme Court History—March 17, 1954

On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 11, 1943

On this day in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated Wiley B. Rutledge to the Supreme Court. Rutledge was President Roosevelt’s eighth and final appointee to the Court. At the time of his appointment, he had been serving on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1939. The Senate confirmed … Continue reading On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 11, 1943

On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 10, 1937

On this day in 1937, Bishop William Manning, head of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York, gave a rather unusual Ash Wednesday sermon. His topic: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposal to expand the Supreme Court. When Roosevelt announced his controversial “court-packing” plan (as its critics dubbed it) several days earlier, he framed it as … Continue reading On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 10, 1937

On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 5, 1813

On this day in 1813, the Supreme Court decided Mima Queen v. Hepburn, an appeal of a suit of an enslaved woman who claimed her freedom. The Court rejected her appeal, holding that the hearsay evidence Mima Queen relied on to establish that her great grandmother was a free woman of color who was wrongly … Continue reading On This Day in Supreme Court History—February 5, 1813

This Day in Supreme Court History—January 20, 1801

On this day in 1801, President John Adams nominated John Marshall to be the Chief Justice of the United States. The vacancy in the Court arose when Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth resigned on December 15, 1800. Ellsworth was in France, where Adams had sent him to negotiate a treaty to end the 1798-1800 “quasi-war” between … Continue reading This Day in Supreme Court History—January 20, 1801

Martin Luther King Jr., the Law, and the Courts

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day, we are reposting this essay by ISCOTUS Co-Director Christopher W. Schmidt. Among the most important of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contributions to American history were his commentaries on the relationship between the law and social justice. King’s views toward the law can be divided into two categories: law … Continue reading Martin Luther King Jr., the Law, and the Courts

Justice Marshall and Judge Mikva: Justice Kagan Reminisces

Justice Elena Kagan clerked for two legal legends after she graduated from law school, First, she clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and she then went on to clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the United States Supreme Court. During her visit to Chicago-Kent … Continue reading Justice Marshall and Judge Mikva: Justice Kagan Reminisces