Precedents

154 ABA Journal Precedents articles.

Aug. 22, 1984: Flag Burning Tests the Law

Justice Antonin Scalia joined Justice William Brennan’s majority opinion in a case that probed tensions between free speech and patriotism.

July 13, 1863: Draft lottery sparks NYC riots

The Enrollment Act of 1863 required male citizens between ages 20 and 45 to register for conscription. In New York, 119 died after a mob halted a conscription lottery that exempted black men and wealthy whites.

June 19, 1972: Curt Flood loses ‘reserve clause’ challenge

Baseball’s reserve clause allowed total team control of a player’s career. Baseball’s hold on the American imagination and control of player contracts allowed it to survive the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the Great Depression, segregation, franchise relocations and two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

May 22, 1856: Abolitionist beaten senseless on Senate floor

Sen. Charles Sumner was caned in U.S. Senate chambers. Rep. Preston Brooks took violent exception to a speech on slavery and unrest in the Kansas Territory.

April 13, 1963: Sam Sheppard seeks a new trial

Five months before ‘The Fugitive’ first aired, F. Lee Bailey challenged the extraordinary 1954 trial and conviction of Dr. Sam Sheppard, on whose case the TV series was based.

March 20, 1907: Authorities quarantine ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mallon

“Typhoid Mary” Mallon was linked to 53 cases of typhoid fever, including three deaths.

Feb. 11, 1812: Gerrymander’s first sighting

Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry lent his name to the gerrymander, a legislative effort to apportion political jurisdictions.

Jan. 7, 1795: The Yazoo Land Fraud Becomes Law

A state-sanctioned land grab tested issues of state sovereignty and federal power in the newly independent United States. Claims under the Yazoo Land Act ultimately were resolved by the Supreme Court in Fletcher v. Peck.

Dec. 23, 1948: Japan’s Wartime Leader Is Executed

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander for Allied powers, authorized a military tribunal for Hideki Tojo, Japan’s penultimate leader during much of the war. He was later convicted for his part in war crimes and sentenced to death.

Nov. 25, 1933: ‘Ulysses’ goes on trial

On Nov. 25, 1933, U.S. v. One Book Called Ulysses went before Judge John Woolsey, who had spent his summer reading Ulysses. He was perplexed and intrigued by its narrative style When civil liberties lawyer Morris Ernst argued that author James Joyce’s intent was to replicate the meandering consciousness of everyday life—however mundane or obscene—Woolsey took his point.

A Jury Rules Against the KKK

When three Mississippi civil rights workers were shot dead, local law enforcement declined to pursue the case. Then the FBI moved in.

Precedents: Chicago Tylenol Murders

Bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol were laced with cyanide. The murders had an enduring impact on public health and perceptions of corporate responsibility.

Aug. 14, 1935: The Woman Behind America’s Social Safety Net

No reporters were present as Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935. But there were plenty of cameras. And there were plenty of men: New Deal luminaries who had familiar names, such as Barkley, Wagner, Dingell and La Follette—even Kentucky legislator Fred Vinson, who later became chief justice of the United States.

But when he handed the first ceremonial pen to Frances Perkins, it wasn’t an act of chivalry. She was Roosevelt’s secretary of labor and the major force behind the act.

July 31, 1942: Putting the Enemy on Trial

In early July 1942, about seven months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued two proclamations related to the handling of enemy saboteurs. The first, in effect, made these enemy combatants subject to military justice. The second set up a military commission to try those accused of attacks on any part of America’s vast industrial infrastructure.

June 5, 1939: Unions Confront Jersey’s ‘Boss Hague’

In Hague v. CIO, decided June 5, 1939, the Jersey City, New Jersey, Mayor Frank Hague argued that by pre-empting union activism, he was preventing “riots, disturbances or disorderly assemblage.” In a plurality decision, the justices disagreed.

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