Friday, October 2, 2015

48 years ago today (most likely)

Moderately reliable sources on the Internet, i.e. Wikipedia, say that on this date in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. He was, of course, the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. His appointment, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Housing Act, and the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, is one of the reasons we should he happy that Lyndon Johnson was President.  But I digress.

Words like hero and bravery get overused, but they both apply here. From 1934 (the year after he graduated from law school) until 1961 (when he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Justice Marshall worked to end racial discrimination in this country. This frequently involved taking cases in the Deep South, were Justice Marshall was in danger of being beaten or killed by the supporters of racial segregation. Few lawyers-then or now- willingly brave the practice of law in the face of physical harm or death. God knows that I don't. If my child were to decide to become a lawyer, I certainly hope he emulates Justice Marshall's example more than mine.

Justice Marshall was one of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court, and was replaced by Justice Thomas, one of the most conservative members (although given his belief that precedent is not entitled to any deference one could say that Justice Thomas is really the most radical justice).  I suppose that is further proof that elections have consequences.  Without discussing the benefits/drawback of that particular transition, here are a few quotes (with links to the source if you are in to that sort of thing) attributed to Justice Marshall.
What is important is a goal toward which we are moving, a goal that is the basis of true democracy, which is over and above the law.  And it's something that won't happen. But you must pray for it and work for it, and that goal is very simple.  That goal is that if a child, a Negro child, is born to a black mother in a state like Mississippi or any other state like that, born to the dumbest, poorest sharecropper, if by merely drawing its first breath in the democracy, there and without any more, he is born with the exact same rights as a similar child born to a white parent of the wealthiest person in the United States. No, it's not true. 'It never will be true. But I challenge anybody to take the position that that is not the goal that we should be shooting for. And stop talking about how far we've come, and stop talking about how close we are.
None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.
Here's another that may be especially relevant during these times of opposition to the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling.:
There is very little truth in the old refrain that one cannot legislate equality. Laws not only provide concrete benefit, they can even change the hearts of men, some men anyway for good or evil  . . . The simple fact is that most people will obey the law and some, at least, will be converted by it.
Here's one from Police Department of the City of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. (1972):
But, above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.
To end on an amusing note, I like this one, "I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it.  I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband."

Mr. Torvik can confirm but I believe that last quote will also be our motto when President Obama remedies his inexplicable failure to appoint us to the federal bench.


  1. I agree with your final paragraph. Of course, we already know what you'll look like at age 110:

    1. I forgot about that post. Looking at it again made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.


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