ABA Journal

Legal History

1221 ABA Journal Legal History articles.

Was the first English-language dictionary penned by a legal lexicographer?

The contender for the distinction is John Rastell (circa 1475–1536), who is commonly credited with having written the first English law dictionary. Yet he might just deserve credit for producing the first dictionary in the English language. Though early editions are undated, the first printing is thought to have appeared in 1523.

May 20, 1863: The 10th Supreme Court Justice

By the time he was sworn in on May 20, 1863, after having been nominated by President Abraham Lincoln to a 10th seat on the U.S. Supreme Court two months earlier, 46-year-old Stephen Johnson Field presented a curious choice. Not only was he a Democrat who would need confirmation by a Republican-controlled Senate, but he also was a briefly disbarred jurist known as much for his hot-headed temperament as for his keen legal mind.

In ‘Actual Malice,’ law prof explains why NYT v. Sullivan mattered in 1964 and is under attack today

The 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan protected the civil rights movement, established the "actual malice" standard, and is the basis for modern American libel law. But in recent years, criticism of the case has grown among conservatives—with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling it "policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law" and suggesting that the decision should be reconsidered.

Jackson’s votes in Supreme Court’s first 6 opinions make her ‘last justice standing’

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is the only U.S. Supreme Court justice who joined every majority decision without a separate concurrence in the first six merits opinions released this term, making her the “last justice standing.”

Weekly Briefs: Legal sector continues to gain jobs; Roe v. Wade archive auctioned

Legal sector adds 1,500 jobs

The legal services sector continues to add jobs, despite reports of layoffs at some BigLaw firms. The sector gained 1,500 jobs in February, according to…

In ‘Her Honor,’ trailblazing women judges take center stage

When Lauren Stiller Rikleen was approached in 2020 by the ABA Judicial Division to help compile autobiographical stories from women judges in America, a powerful motivating factor for her was to capture stories of the barriers that the judges overcame in their words.

Weekly Briefs: Newest SCOTUS justice writes second cert-denial dissent; Roe v. Wade archive to be auctioned

Justice Jackson dissents from cert denial—again

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson hasn’t yet written an opinion in an argued case before the U.S. Supreme Court, but she has written two dissents…

In ‘Myth America,’ historians challenge misinformation about our past

Some American patriotic myths are harmless; George Washington may have chopped down a cherry tree at some point in his life, but the popular story told to children where young George fesses up to the deed by saying "I cannot tell a lie" is made up from whole cloth. However, there are much more pernicious lies and misinformation circulated about our past as a country, and that misinformation is used for political ends.

Law school named in honor of Black attorney in what may be second time in history

The Florida St. Thomas University College of Law recently announced that it would be adding Benjamin L. Crump to its title in recognition of the Black civil rights lawyer.

How the US influenced the creation of Nazi race laws under Hitler

Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers in the 1930s fashioned race laws that were designed to degrade and deprive Jewish people of all rights. At the same time, American laws often enshrined white supremacy and discriminated against non-whites, and Black Americans in particular were treated as second-class citizens.

Confederate symbols should be removed from courthouses, ABA House says

Confederate memorabilia “and other symbols of racial and ethnic bias” should be removed from facilities where court proceedings are held, according to a resolution passed Monday by the ABA House of Delegates.

In Zoom convention, legal scholars of varied ideologies backed these 5 constitutional amendments

Should Arnold Schwarzenegger be allowed to run for president? Should U.S. Supreme Court justices have 18-year terms?

5th Circuit looks to history and strikes down law banning gun possession by subjects of civil protective orders

A federal appeals court has struck down a ban on gun possession by people subject to domestic-violence restraining orders, citing the historical approach required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest Second Amendment precedent.

Gideon at 60: The right to a lawyer was established, but the promise of equal justice remains elusive

“Most Americans believe that access to an attorney during criminal proceedings is a foundational right in our country. But the right to have an attorney provided by the government has not always existed. Until 60 years ago, indigent defendants who could not afford an attorney had to defend themselves in court. But on March 18, 1963, that all changed. The U.S. Supreme Court rendered one of its most famous decisions in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.”

Feb. 2, 1980: Abscam bribery investigation revealed

On Feb. 2, 1980, news outlets revealed that a U.S. senator and at least seven congressmen were among dozens of targets under investigation for soliciting and accepting bribes. In a far-flung and sometimes ludicrous sting operation, lawmakers had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from undercover FBI agents posing as oil-rich Arabs and their minions in exchange for loans and investments in the U.S.

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