Did Rehnquist lie about Plessy?Breaking News
In 1952, a young Supreme Court clerk wrote a memorandum that would come to haunt him. The court was considering Brown v. Board of Education, the great school desegregation case. The question for the justices was whether to overrulePlessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 decision that said “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional.
The memo, prepared for Justice Robert H. Jackson, was written in the first person and bore the clerk’s initials — “WHR,” forWilliam H. Rehnquist. “I realize it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by ‘liberal’ colleagues,” Mr. Rehnquist wrote, “but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”
The memo was disclosed by Newsweek in 1971, on the eve of the Senate floor debate on Mr. Rehnquist’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It caused a firestorm, one that was rekindled when President Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Rehnquist to be chief justice in 1986.
Opposition to the Brown decision is a good way to doom a Supreme Court nomination. But Mr. Rehnquist had an explanation, which he sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter in 1971 and repeated under oath in 1986.
The opinions expressed in the memo, he said, were not his own. “I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson’s tentative views for his own use,” Mr. Rehnquist wrote.
Quite a bit of evidence has accumulated over the years to cast doubt on that explanation, and now there is more.
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Newly released interactive map shows images of destroyed monuments of Mosul
- How the Rise of the Post Office Explains American Innovation
- These Americans are reliving history and don’t mind repeating it
- Britain largest home is saved for the nation
- Shelter and the slums: capturing bleak Britain 50 years ago
- Mary Beard, herself a bestselling author, wonders why more women historians aren't
- Princeton U. historian Imani Perry claims mistreatment in parking ticket arrest
- Retired historian George Dennison remains on the payroll at the U. of Montana while faculty are cut
- The Atlantic profiles exciting ways to teach history
- LDS Church has gone from 0 to 4 historians specializing in women’s history