ABA Journal


172 ABA Journal Precedents articles.

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.

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.

Jan. 29, 1912: Clarence Darrow indicted

At 54, Clarence Darrow was already widely known for his populist politics and his defense of union officials Eugene Debs and “Big Bill” Haywood. But by the time of one of his investigator’s arrest, Darrow was entertaining a plea deal for two brothers on trial for the murders of at least 20 people.

Oct. 21, 1876: John B. West brings case law to lawyers with the Syllabi

Aug. 2, 1790: US conducts first constitutional census

June 30, 1983: Closing the books on Peoples Temple

On June 30, 1983, attorney Robert H. Fabian literally closed the books on one of the most painful proceedings in American jurisprudence: the court-ordered liquidation of assets owned by Peoples Temple, the organized following of the Rev. Jim Jones.

April 17, 1905: New York’s bakeshop labor law overturned

In October 1901, Joseph Lochner, who owned a bakery on South Street in Utica, New York, was indicted and subsequently convicted on two criminal counts of working his employees beyond the hourly limits of the Bakeshop Act, a relatively new state law that limited the working hours of bakery employees to 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week.

Feb. 29, 1984: Guilty plea in Three Mile Island disaster

Dec. 13, 1920: The Bisbee deportations are upheld

On the morning of July 12, 1917, Mrs. H.R. McLellan was startled by the sight of hundreds of men marching just below her Bisbee, Arizona, home. From her house on Chihuahua Hill, she could see them filing down Naco Road, escorted by men carrying rifles. Her husband immediately surmised what was happening: a roundup of the mining town’s striking smelter workers.

Nov. 30, 1920: Charlie Ponzi pleads guilty to larceny

By the time he reached his third stretch in prison, Carlo “Charlie” Ponzi was an American celebrity. In a single remarkable year, 1920, the smooth-talking Italian immigrant made money as fast as anyone, ever. In a matter of months, he took in more than $15 million ($200 million today); but by year’s end he had also been arrested, indicted and convicted for a scheme that came to bear his name.

Aug. 15, 1876: Congress passes the ‘Sell or Starve’ Act

Despite their historic victory at Little Bighorn in June 1876, the Sioux found little relief from the white onslaught. Accepting defeat, they returned to their reservations—unarmed and newly dependent on government rations. And on Aug. 15, 1876, Congress passed legislation that became known as the “Sell or Starve” Act, halting any aid to the Sioux until they relinquished both their hunting rights and their claim to the Black Hills.

June 15, 1992: Supreme Court upholds DEA’s kidnapping of Mexican doctor

May 18, 1926: The strange disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson

March 27, 1876: Colfax massacre convictions tossed

On Easter Sunday in 1873, a heavily armed group of white men led by Christopher Columbus Nash laid siege to the Grant Parish courthouse in the Louisiana town of Colfax. The aim of the assault by 300 white Democrats, many of them former Confederate soldiers, was to dislodge an armed cadre of 150 freedmen and white Republicans who had barricaded themselves inside to protect what they believed was the integrity of their local election.

Jan. 13, 1914: Wright brothers awarded patent on flying machine

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