Category Archives: History of the Court

Defying the Federal Courts

“Courts are just people. They’re just men and women dressed in black robes who have no power to re-declare, or declare, the social foundation of this nation as being unconstitutional.” These were the words of Roy S. Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is a man with a proud history of defying … Continue reading Defying the Federal Courts

The Sit-Ins, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution

On Wednesday, a South Carolina court made national news when it vacated the civil rights-era convictions of a group of lunch counter sit-in protesters. The convictions stemmed from a protest in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on January 31, 1961. A group of African American students from Friendship College took seats at a local five-and-dime lunch … Continue reading The Sit-Ins, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Law

[Reposted from the IIT Chicago-Kent Faculty Blog] 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 as obstacle and law as opportunity. Law as an Obstacle to … Continue reading Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Law

Chief Justice Roberts Discusses Technology at the Supreme Court

The Chief Justice began his year-end report on the federal judiciary with a colorful historical excursion: On November 10, 1893, the Washington Post identified an emerging technology that was reshaping American society: Pneumatics! The miracle of compressed air had led to the creation of new contraptions, including pneumatic tube systems that relied on air compressors … Continue reading Chief Justice Roberts Discusses Technology at the Supreme 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