Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dred Scott trivia

The Dred Scott decision (1857) is, of course, an abomination of the common "law." Among other travesties, it includes Chief Justice Taney's remark that blacks were "at that time [of the Founding] considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race and . . . had no rights or privilege but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them." This remark is all the more terrible for being true.

Here's the trivia. Dred Scott was represented at the Supreme Court by one George Ticknor Curtis, who had formerly been the United States commissioner charged with the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law in Boston. There were two dissenting opinions in the Dred Scott case, including a very long one by Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis—the brother of Dred Scott's lawyer. Although this presents a clear conflict of interest, there is no record that anyone objected or moved for Justice Curtis to recuse himself.

Shortly after the Dred Scott decision, Justice Curtis permanently recused himself—he resigned in disgust.

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