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Today in Legal History: $180 Million Agent Orange Settlement, MacLeish Born, Chase Dies

Posted May 7, 2007 6:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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On this day in 1984, a controversial $180 million settlement was announced in Agent Orange class action litigation by Vietnam War veterans who claimed serious injuries from exposure to the defoliant. The settlement was exhausted before all alleged victims were compensated, a New York Times article explains, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2003, allowed new lawsuits to be brought, as discussed by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. A detailed synopsis of the decades of litigation is detailed by Dow Chemical Co., manufacturer of Agent Orange. To this day, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the contamination has not been properly remediated in Vietnam.

On this day in 1892, lawyer Archibald MacLeish, better known as a poet, playwright and political statesman, was born. His dual interests in literature and public policy resulted in his appointment, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to head the Library of Congress in 1939, and he subsequently served as well as assistant secretary of state. Before and after this government service, MacLeish, won Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and drama. He died in 1982. More details on his life are provided by the Library of Congress.

On this day in 1873, Salmon P. Chase died. As Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he had presided over the U.S. Senate impeachment trial and acquittal of President Andrew Johnson, the first such trial in U.S. history. Chase also was a well-known abolitionist prior to the war, and served both as Ohio governor and in the U.S. Senate prior to taking the helm at the Supreme Court. He worked as a writer, editor and lecturer while getting his law practice established. For more details on his life, see the Supreme Court Historical Society site and that of the Library of Congress.

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