ABA Journal

Legal History

1246 ABA Journal Legal History articles.

June 3, 1943: The zoot suit riots begin

On June 3, 1943, an estimated 50 sailors stationed in Los Angeles crammed into taxis and swarmed into the nearby Alpine Street neighborhood of East LA, where they began beating a group of teens, several dressed in zoot suits—the loose-fitting bib and tucker associated in the local press with Mexican American youth gangs.

Brown v. Board of Education should be renamed, group plans to tell Supreme Court

A lawyer in Camden, South Carolina, plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rename Brown v. Board of Education for the first case taken to federal court in a quest to eliminate the separate-but-equal doctrine.

Justice Stevens’ papers let researchers peek into Supreme Court’s inner workings

According to case files in the 741 manuscript boxes full of Justice John Paul Stevens’ papers newly opened to the public this month by the Library of Congress, Stevens had to take some extra strokes to preserve his tentative 7-2 majority in PGA Tour v. Martin and to keep it from being saddled with concurrences.

‘The Shadow Docket’ shines light on an increasingly uncommunicative Supreme Court

In The Shadow Docket: How the Supreme Court Uses Stealth Rulings to Amass Power and Undermine the Republic, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck argues that the U.S. Supreme Court is expanding its powers at the expense of the rule of law and public transparency.

Is qualified immunity based on scrivener’s error? Law review article makes case

Scholars and courts have overlooked what could be a scrivener’s error that changes the text of the law that permits lawsuits against state and local government officials for constitutional violations, according to a February law review article.

End of the Cold War launched new efforts to build the rule of law

When the Berlin Wall fell Nov. 9, 1989, James Silkenat was serving his term as chair of the ABA International Law Section. But he is the first to admit that he did not immediately anticipate what changes that it would spark.

The curious case of why lawyers are not called ‘doctor’

It never occurred to this retired lawyer and senior pastor that lawyers would use the title “Dr.” until a few years after graduating from law school, when he accepted an adjunct position at a local college while also practicing law.

Biden administration officials debate constitutional challenge to debt limit

Officials in the Biden administration are debating a challenge to the debt limit that is based on the 14th Amendment’s public debt clause.

Rehnquist dropped push for ‘independent state legislature’ theory in Bush v. Gore, Stevens’ papers show

Newly released private papers of then-Justice John Paul Stevens provide insight into U.S. Supreme Court deliberations and concerns before its decisions that decided a presidential election and affirmed the right to abortion.

Lawyer explores English family’s ties to Nazi Germany in ‘The Mitford Affair’

When it comes to taking on stories about larger-than-life women, lawyer and author Heather Terrell, who writes under the pen name Marie Benedict, has a long track record.

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…

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