Category Archives: History of the Court

Robert Kennedy’s Day at the Supreme Court

We used to have a tradition that each U.S. Attorney General would argue at least one case before the Supreme Court. Although he never argued a case in any court, Robert Kennedy was intent on following this tradition. (After appointing his brother as Attorney General, President Kennedy joked: “I can’t see that it’s wrong to … Continue reading Robert Kennedy’s Day at the Supreme Court

The Justices, Their Papers, and the Claims of History

Why do we care about what goes on behind closed doors at the Supreme Court? Do the justices have some sort of responsibility to ensure that the American people learn, at some point, the “inside” story of the Court? A recent article in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore on the theft of some of … Continue reading The Justices, Their Papers, and the Claims of History

Supreme Court Justices and Their Papers

The latest issue of the New Yorker has an article by Harvard historian Jill Lepore exploring the theft of thousands of documents from Justice Felix Frankfurter’s papers at the Library of Congress in the early 1970s. In the course of detailing the unsolved mystery of Frankfurter’s missing papers, Lepore provides a brief history of controversies … Continue reading Supreme Court Justices and Their Papers

Mississippi Burning at the Supreme Court

On Monday, President Obama awarded Medals of Freedom to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths. Early in the summer of 1964, the three men were working with the Mississippi voter registration drive known as “Freedom Summer.” Local police arrested them for a supposed traffic violation … Continue reading Mississippi Burning at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court and the Press—When the Justices Strike Back

Justice Samuel Alito recently aired his frustrations with press coverage of the Supreme Court. Speaking at the New York Historical Society this past weekend, he conceded that the reporters that “cover us full time … are very knowledgeable,” and that “their news stories about oral arguments and decisions … are pretty good.” But he complained … Continue reading The Supreme Court and the Press—When the Justices Strike Back

Measuring the Supreme Court

How does one measure the overall performance of the Supreme Court? This problem is at the heart of Erwin Chemerinsky’s new book, The Case Against the Supreme Court. Chemerinsky’s basic argument is that, when measured over the course of American history, the Supreme Court has done more harm than good. When faced with “its most … Continue reading Measuring the Supreme Court

Some Thoughts on a “Silent” Supreme Court

There has been much discussion about the Supreme Court’s recent string of highly consequential actions in which the justices have been conspicuously silent about what they are doing. Because of the great lengths the justices go to lay out the precise reasoning of their decisions, they often proudly proclaim the Court as the most transparent … Continue reading Some Thoughts on a “Silent” Supreme Court