Friday, May 24, 2024

The Life and Work of the First Woman Elected Justice of the Peace, Catharine Waugh McCullough

Sandra Ryder, Clearing the Bar: Catharine Waugh McCullough and Illinois Legal Reform

Catharine Waugh McCulloch was one of the first women admitted to practice law in Illinois, and the 18th woman admitted to practice in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. After graduating from law school and passing the bar, she experienced difficulty finding a legal position in Chicago, so she opened an office in Rockford, Illinois, where she often took on destitute women clients. She initiated the shared writing among women attorneys, which became the Equity Club. She ran for Attorney General in 1888 and was active in many women's groups. After marrying a classmate from law school, the two formed a partnership in law and marriage; they wrote briefs, tried cases and published legal documents together.
McCulloch drafted a bill which changed guardianship laws, and another which raised the age of consent for girls from 14 to 16, both of which were passed into law. After an Illinois case gave women the right to vote in school elections, McCulloch recognized the significance of this ruling. Together with the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, she and other suffragists toured the state by auto, speaking and handing out flyers and pamphlets. She drafted a bill by which Illinois women could vote in municipal and presidential elections, and every year, for 20 years, she and others went to Springfield to testify and lobby for her bill; it passed in 1913, and this Illinois suffrage law was instrumental in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Not satisfied, McCulloch worked with the Chicago charter revision committee to have women's suffrage included; she fought to have the Illinois Constitution revised to include women's suffrage; she was successful in both efforts.
Meanwhile, in 1907, McCulloch was the first woman elected to a judicial position, Justice of the Peace, in Evanston, Illinois, and by all men. She was appointed Master in Chancery of the Cook County Superior Court for four, two-year terms. She was selected the first woman elector to the State Democratic Convention in 1916. While practicing with McCulloch & McCulloch, she had one case which used contract law to set public policy regarding wholesomeness of food; this case later was incorporated into one portion of today's Uniform Commercial Code. Since much of their practice dealt with probate and estates, the McCulloch's co-authored A Manual of the Law of Will Contests in Illinois.
With the National League of Women Voters, McCulloch fought for years, again using print media, speeches and women's groups, to have women on juries, and to make the laws concerning women uniform throughout the U.S. *3 Always committed to utilizing law to reform the legal status of women and children, McCulloch wrote plays, essays, legislative bills, speeches, pamphlets, and used the power of print media to convince the public; her plays were still being produced in the 1990s.
After their many years of legal practice and innovation, in 1940 both McCulloch and her husband were named “Senior Counselors” of the Illinois Bar Association. But her legacy is far more reaching; when any woman votes, retains custody of children or property in a divorce, or serves on a jury, it is because of the vision and relentless legal work of Catharine Waugh McCulloch and her peers.
In track and field, clearing the bar indicates that the person has exceeded expectations and is ready to face even more difficult ones. McCulloch did not just pass the bar; because women entering the legal profession was in its infancy, and due to the bulk and import of her legal contributions, McCulloch cleared the bar with room to spare.

May 24, 2024 in Judges, Law schools, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2024

Sweeny and Canon on "The Language of Love v. Beshear"

JoAnne Sweeny and Dan Canon have published The Language of Love v. Beshear: Telling a Client's Story While Creating a Civil Rights Case Narrative in volume 17 of the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. The article was shared on SSRN here. The Introduction is excerpted here: 

We tend to think of a good lawyer as being a vigorous, focused advocate, one who thinks first and foremost of the interests, needs, and desires of their clients. But what if the client’s case will affect an entire group of people; a group who may also seek to have its collective rights vindicated? This is the dilemma of the civil rights attorney—how does an effective advocate balance the specific needs of the client with the broader, long-term needs of the group the client represents? And who should have a say in what story is told on behalf of the client? In civil rights cases, it is not just the client, but activists, organizations, academics, and the media who have a stake in the outcome. How much of a say should they have in the creation of a litigation story that will most directly impact a single client? How are those stories crafted? With careless, blunt-force litigation, or with purposefulness? And does it matter who gets to tell the story?


* * *

Focusing on the Kentucky case, Love v. Beshear, this article shows how civil rights attorneys may be constrained by their dual roles—advisors to their clients and advocates for civil rights—and how they decide what story to tell to remain true to their clients’ needs while keeping engaged with the larger civil rights issues inherent in these impact litigation cases. Moreover, once the litigation has begun, the other players—organizations, media, even the judges themselves—can change the story, highlighting what they see fit. The ultimate story of who a lawyer’s clients are ultimately may not be up to the lawyer or the client.  


It concludes: 


Obergefell built a bridge to same-sex marriage, creating solid ground for the next group of civil rights lawyers
to again expand our understanding of what relationships and “equal dignity” really mean. As the country’s understanding of same-sex couples has evolved, so has the array of stories that lawyers can tell about groups that may be insular or unfamiliar to the broader public. For example, now that transgender, bisexual, nonbinary, and polyamorous people’s stories are becoming more mainstream, their stories can be used to champion a broader understanding (and legal recognition) of fundamental rights. This continuous opening of new chapters to familiar stories is the essence of civil rights advocacy.

May 6, 2024 in Courts, Gender, Judges, Legal History, Same-sex marriage, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Fair Representation Act Reintroduced in Congress to Increase Women's and Racial Minorities' Political Representation

Ms., Weekend Reading on Women's Representation

*** The FRA has the potential to create a more diverse government through the implementation of ranked-choice voting and the creation of multi-member U.S. House districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions.

This voting system also combats gerrymandering and amplifies voter power. 

Our friend at FairVote, the amazing Deb Otis, discussed the reintroduction of the FRA on a podcast on NPR this week. Alaska and Maine have already seen major results from implementing RCV and Otis explains why more states are considering the new system and reinforces why the FRA is a true model for a more representative democracy.

The Fulcrum featured a terrific piece from Drew Penrose and Dave Daley about the impact of this proportional voting system and how it holds the potential to transform the way we elect our public officials:

The most meaningful change would put an end to winner-take-all, single-member districts and create a proportional House with larger, multimember districts and proportional voting. This might sound like a big lift, but it’s fully constitutional, deeply aligned with our founding vision, and only requires Congress to pass a statute. For example, the Fair Representation Act, a bill to be reintroduced in Congress this week by Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), would do just that by requiring every state to replace its winner-take-all elections with proportional ranked-choice voting.

Proportional representation methods like rank-choice voting, along with other types of multiple-candidate voting from a group, were advocated by Progressive reformers from 1913 to 1932 to make political officials more representative of ordinary people and minorities, rather than concentrating power in corrupt party bosses and corporate interests. See Kathleen L. Barber, A Right to Representation: Proportional Election Systems for the Twenty-First Century (Ohio State U. Press. 2000).

April 23, 2024 in Legal History, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 12, 2024

Book Feminized Justice: The Story of the Toronto Women's Courts 1913-1934

I came across this book as part of my research on the history of Women's Courts, and thought it was worth a share. 

Amanda Glasbeek, Feminized Justice: The Toronto Women's Court, 1913-1914 

In 1913, Toronto launched Canada’s first woman’s police court. The court was run by and for women, but was it a great achievement? This multifaceted portrait of the cases, defendants, and officials that graced its halls reveals a fundamental contradiction at the experiment’s core: the Toronto Women’s Police Court was both a site for feminist adaptations of justice and a court empowered to punish women. Reconstructed from case files and newspaper accounts, this engrossing portrait of the trials and tribulations that accompanied an early experiment in feminized justice sheds new light on maternal feminist politics, women and crime, and the role of resistance, agency, and experience in the criminal justice system.

Feminized Justice: The Toronto Women's Court, 1913-34 (Law and Society)



April 12, 2024 in Courts, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Critical Role of History After Dobbs

Serena Mayeri, The Critical Role of History After Dobbs, 2 Journal of American Constitutional History 171 (Winter 2024)

The Dobbs majority’s reliance on a flawed and impoverished account of “history and tradition” to deny fundamental freedoms today may tempt us to despair of appealing to the past as a source of constitutional rights or principles. But the problem with Dobbs is not its discussion of history per se; rather, it is how and for what purposes the Court looks to the past. History need not preserve archaic values; it can counsel against past errors and justify affirmative approaches to protecting rights and combating inequality.

This essay explores critical roles for history in legal, constitutional, and political arguments about reproductive freedom and democracy after Dobbs. These critical approaches define differently the historical voices and sources that matter; the constitutional principles and lessons to be drawn from the past; and the roles that history and tradition should play in shaping our present and future. Critical histories read the Reconstruction Amendments as a mandate for emancipation and for the eradication of all forms of bodily and reproductive coercion. They elevate the voices of those who long were excluded from political participation and place abortion restrictions in a longer history of reproductive control and anti-democratic political traditions. Critical histories can and do inform the interpretation of state as well as federal constitutional provisions in and outside of court. From courtrooms, legislatures, and campuses to workplaces, street protests, and dinner tables, these histories play a more crucial role than ever in informing legal and political discourse about reproductive justice and the future of democracy.

March 28, 2024 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Paula Monopoli to Speak on Women as Constitution Makers: Revisiting the 19th Amendment After Dobbs

Friday, February 23, 2024

Challenging the Misuse of Women’s Legal History to Support Anti-Abortion Regulation

It looks like it is time again to reup this article I wrote over a decade ago disputing the use of women’s legal history to claim that nineteenth-century feminist pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton advocated against abortion. Tracy Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law & Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012). I also discuss the issue further in my book, Tracy Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYU Press 2016). Post-Dobbs, anti-choice writers have once again resurrected the erroneous claim that Stanton, and other historical feminists like Victoria Woodhull, actively opposed abortion. Erika Bachiochi & Rachel Morrison, Dobbs, Equality and the Contested Meaning of Women's Rights (Texas Review of Law & Politics, forthcoming).

My conclusion as to Stanton was to the contrary. I found that a close look at the historical record shows that Stanton supported—not opposed—women’s right to engage in voluntary, enlightened motherhood by choice. And she opposed state regulation of women’s private decisions and autonomy. Stanton actually said very little about abortion at all, a handful of comments over fifty years, in contrast to her thousands of speeches, writings, and interviews advocating many other demands for women’s rights for social, political, family, and economic citizenship. Instead, Stanton merely used the public debate swirling around abortion triggered by the new criminalization of abortion in the late 1860s as an avenue to voice her other demands for women’s equality, enfranchisement, autonomy, and opportunity.

February 23, 2024 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Interpreting the Undemocratic Constitution that Excludes Women and Racial Minorities

Joy Milligan & Bertrall Ross, We (Who Are Not) the People: Interpreting the Undemocratic Constitution, Texas L. Rev. (forthcoming)  

How should we interpret a Constitution that was not written for us? For most of American history, “We the people” excluded women and racial minorities. The Constitution and all but a few amendments were adopted amidst profoundly undemocratic conditions in which majorities of the population did not participate or see their interests represented. The United States did not approach even minimally egalitarian democracy until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act finally assured the right to vote to people of color, implementing the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments’ guarantees.

In this Article, we argue that the undemocratic nature of the Constitution must be addressed in interpreting the document. Interpreters can exacerbate or ameliorate the Constitution’s democratic flaws; the methods they select may entrench old forms of political exclusion or help equalize rights and status across the citizenry.

To illustrate, we offer a case study of the perils and possibilities of interpretation, focusing on unenumerated rights. Such rights may have been unwritten because they were liberties commonly exercised by white men as full citizens, and hence could be assumed. Or they may have been unwritten because they mattered primarily for politically excluded populations and therefore could be ignored. We show that the Supreme Court’s recent adoption of an approach to unenumerated rights resting on “history and tradition” unjustifiably reinforces prior undemocratic conditions. As a corrective, we advocate a set of interpretive steps designed to ameliorate the Constitution’s democratic flaws and advance equal citizenship. Such methods may move us closer to egalitarian democracy, a prerequisite if we are ever to reshape our constitutional framework under truly inclusive conditions.

January 9, 2024 in Constitutional, Gender, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

New Books "Young and Restless," A Legal History of Young Women's Role as Forces of Change

The orange cover shows a pixilated image of faces and raised fists. The text is violet.

Book Review: "Young and Restless" by Mattie Kahn

Girls to the Front!  In “Young and Restless,” Mattie Kahn returns young women and girls to their rightful role in the history books: as forces for change.

And although it is not the aim of a historical survey to be prescriptive, heartening inspiration can be found in “Young and Restless,” Mattie Kahn’s thoroughgoing examination of the role of young women and girls in America’s uprisings.

Her subjects have agitated on behalf of labor and voting rights, racial dignity and equality, sexual and reproductive freedom, freedom of speech and against climate change. The solutions she illustrates include objecting, resisting — and, yes, acting up, rather than sinking into sadness and accepting the unacceptable. By taking direct action in the service of shared values, in alliance with beloved communities for a better future, girls throughout American history have discovered a sense of personal agency, often during eras when their opportunities were sharply circumscribed. Sometimes they even changed history.

Kahn, whose stated aim is to write girls back into the historical record, also considers her subjects’ lives before and after their time in the trenches. Many of the young women who took on activist roles — especially those who lived before the mid-20th century — faced intense blowback, even as they inspired others to their causes. The book also examines the place of childhood itself as a battleground on which America’s culture wars have historically been fought.

The author maintains an admirable ability to complicate her own assertions — girls have been a force for progressive change, for instance, but also a force in reactionary movements

November 2, 2023 in Books, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Reconciling Domestic Violence Protections and the Second Amendment

Natalie Nanasi, Reconciling Domestic Violence Protections and the Second Amendment, Wake Forest L. Rev. (forthcoming)  

In March of 2023, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders could not be required to give up their guns. The decision was the first of a federal court to overturn a firearm regulation pursuant to New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a 2022 Supreme Court opinion that created a new standard for determining the constitutionality of gun restrictions. After Bruen, only laws that are “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” pass constitutional muster.

The Fifth’s Circuit decision in U.S. v. Rahimi, which the Supreme Court will review in the 2023-24 term, highlights the unworkability of the Bruen test. Women’s rights were virtually nonexistent when the Second Amendment was ratified. Domestic violence was tolerated, and it was not until nearly 200 years later that protective order statutes were enacted across the United States. Looking to the past to justify modern-day gun safety laws gravely threatens women’s rights and safety.

But Bruen does not require such a narrow reading. Significant historical and legal precedent exists for disarming dangerous persons, and those who have had protective orders entered against them undoubtedly fall into that category. This article’s feminist critique of Bruen demonstrates why its holding is deeply problematic, but it also shows that it is possible to both hew to Second Amendment jurisprudence and protect survivors of intimate partner violence.

September 26, 2023 in Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

New Book Equality Unfulfilled: How Title IX's Policy Design Undermines Change to College Sports

New Book by Elizabeth Sharrow About Title IX "Equality Unfulfilled" is Published

Elizabeth Sharrow, associate professor of public policy and history, has published a new book, “Equality Unfulfilled: How Title IX’s Policy Design Undermines Change to College Sport” (Cambridge University Press, July 2023), examining the half-century legacy of the law’s passage.

As Sharrow and co-author James Druckman of Northwestern University explain in the book, the year 1972 is often hailed as an inflection point in the evolution of women’s rights. Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that outlawed sex-based discrimination in education. Many Americans celebrate Title IX for having ushered in an era of expanded opportunity for women’s athletics, yet 50 years after its passage sex-based inequalities in college athletics remain the reality. “Equality Unfulfilled” explains why, identifying institutional roadblocks – including sex-based segregation, androcentric organizational cultures and overbearing market incentives – that undermine efforts to achieve systemic change.

Drawing on surveys with student-athletes, athletic administrators, college coaches, members of the public and fans of college sports, it highlights how institutions shape attitudes toward gender equity policy. It offers novel lessons not only for those interested in college sports but for everyone seeking to understand the barriers that any marginalized group faces in their quest for equality.



The cover art for the book Equality Unfulfilled by Elizabeth Sharrow

August 15, 2023 in Books, Education, Legal History, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

New Book, The Women of NOW: How Feminists Built an Organization that Transformed America

Katherine Turk, The Women of NOW: How Feminists Built an Organization that Transformed America (2023)

In the summer of 1966, crammed into a D.C. hotel suite, twenty-eight women devised a revolutionary plan. Betty Friedan, the well-known author of The Feminine Mystique, and Pauli Murray, a lawyer at the front lines of the civil rights movement, had called this renegade meeting from attendees at the annual conference of state women’s commissions. Fed up with waiting for government action and trying to work with a broken system, they laid out a vision for an organization to unite all women and fight for their rights. Alternately skeptical and energized, they debated the idea late into the night. In less than twenty-four hours, the National Organization for Women was born.

In The Women of NOW, the historian Katherine Turk chronicles the growth and enduring influence of this foundational group through three lesser-known members who became leaders: Aileen Hernandez, a federal official of Jamaican American heritage; Mary Jean Collins, a working-class union organizer and Chicago Catholic; and Patricia Hill Burnett, a Michigan Republican, artist, and former beauty queen. From its bold inception through the tumultuous training ground of the 1970s, NOW’s feminism flooded the nation, permanently shifted American culture and politics, and clashed with conservative forces, presaging our fractured national landscape. These women built an organization that was radical in its time but flexible and expansive enough to become a mainstream fixture. This is the story of how they built it―and built it to last.


August 1, 2023 in Books, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women Congress Members Argue that ERA Deadline Was Discretionary, and That Amendment is Already the Law of the Land

NYT, Democrats Try a Novel Tactic to Revive Equal Rights Amendment

Democrats in Congress are making a fresh push for the nearly century-old Equal Rights Amendment to be enshrined in the Constitution, rallying around a creative legal theory in a bid to revive an amendment that would explicitly guarantee sex equality as a way to protect reproductive rights in post-Roe America.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Cori Bush of Missouri introduced a joint resolution on Thursday stating that the measure has already been ratified and is enforceable as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. The resolution states that the national archivist, who is responsible for the certification and publication of constitutional amendments, must immediately do so.

It is a novel tactic for pursuing a measure that was first proposed in Congress 100 years ago and was approved by Congress about 50 years later but not ratified in time to be added to the Constitution. Proponents say the amendment has taken on new significance after the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the abortion rights long guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

“In light of Dobbs, we’re seeing vast discrimination across the country,” Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview. “Women are being treated as second-class citizens. This is more timely than ever.”***

Now, Ms. Gillibrand and Ms. Bush are trying a different approach: They are simply ignoring the issue of the expired ratification deadline altogether and introducing a resolution that argues that the E.R.A. is already the law of the land.***

“This is an opportunity to start fresh with a legitimate legal theory that has basis in constitutional law,” Ms. Gillibrand said, noting that the reference to the deadline was in the preamble, not the text of the amendment itself. “I believe President Biden can just do this. I’m going to make the legal and political argument over the next several months that this is something he can do.”

August 1, 2023 in Constitutional, Legal History, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

New Book The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the US

Deborah Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Oxford 2023)

Combining analyses of feminist legal theory, legal doctrine, and feminist social movements, The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States offers a comprehensive overview of U.S. legal feminism. Contributions by leading feminist thinkers trace the impacts of legal feminism on legal claims and defenses and demonstrate how feminism has altered and transformed understandings of basic legal concepts, from sexual harassment and gender equity in sports to new conceptions of consent and motherhood. Its chapters connect legal feminism to adjacent intellectual discourses, such as masculinities theory and queer theory, and scrutinize criticisms and backlash to feminism from all sides of the political spectrum. Its examination of the prominent brands of feminist legal theory shows the links and divergences among feminist scholars, highlighting the continued relevance of established theories (liberal, dominance, and relational feminism) and the increased importance of new intersectional, sex-positive, and postmodern approaches.

Unique in its triple focus on theory, doctrine, and social movements, the Handbook recounts the history of activist struggles to pass the Equal Right Amendment, the Anti-Rape and Battered Movements of the 1970s, the contemporary movements for reproductive justice and against campus sexual assault, as well as the #MeToo movement. The emphasis on theory and feminist practice animates discussions of feminist legal pedagogy and feminist influences on judges and judicial decision making. Chapters on emerging areas of law ripe for feminist analysis explore foundational subjects such as contracts, tax, and tort law, and imagine feminist and social justice approaches to digital privacy and intellectual property law, environmental law, and immigration law. The Handbook provides a broad picture of the intellectual landscape and allows both new and established scholars to gain an in-depth understanding of the full range of feminist influence on U.S. law.

All star list of contributors include:

Jamie R. Abrams
Kathryn Abrams
Aziza Ahmed
Susan Frelich Appleton
Katharine K. Baker
Ann C. Bartow
Theresa M. Beiner
Stephanie Bornstein
Sarah M. Buel
Erin E. Buzuvis
Nancy Chi Cantalupo
Cinnamon P. Carlarne
Brenda Cossman
Bridget J. Crawford
Rosalind Dixon
Martha M. Ertman
Michele Estrin Gilman
Leigh Goodmark
Tristin K. Green
Brittany K. Hacker
Jennifer S. Hendricks
Tracy Higgins
Emily Houh
Anthony C. Infanti
Kristin Kalsem
Sally J. Kenney
Amelia Loughland
Linda C. McClain
Martha T. McCluskey
Ann C. McGinley
Hilarie Meyers
Melissa Murray
Jennifer Nedelsky
Michelle Oberman
Maria Ontiveros
Camille Gear Rich
Darren Rosenblum
Julie C. Suk
Sarah L. Swan
Tracy A. Thomas
Deborah A. Widiss
Mary Ziegler



July 25, 2023 in Books, Constitutional, Courts, Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 24, 2023

Reva Siegel on "How Dobbs Weaponizes Brown"

Reva Siegel has posted her forthcoming work in the Yale Law Journal on SSRN. The work is titled How Dobbs Weaponizes Brown: The Roots of Dobbs's History-and-Tradition Method in the Defense of Segregation. The abstract is excerpted below. 

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Roberts Court claimed authority for its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade by comparing itself to the Warren Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturning Plessy v. Ferguson. This Essay challenges the claim that Dobbs is like Brown by recovering history the Court omitted in Dobbs—omissions that enabled the Court to weaponize Brown as authority for overturning Roe.

Dobbs interpreted the Constitution’s liberty guarantee by counting state laws that banned abortion at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification. In doing so, Dobbs employed a method of interpreting the Amendment popularized by those who opposed Brown. They defended Plessy as properly interpreting the Constitution’s equality guarantee by counting states whose laws segregated education in 1868. Brown repudiated this tradition-entrenching method of interpreting the Amendment and called upon the nation to align its practices with its constitutional ideals.

Examining the history Dobbs omitted helps us think critically about the justifications Dobbs offered for its method of interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment. Dobbs argued that its use of state counting in 1868 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s liberty guarantee provided an objective standard that prevented interpreters from reasoning from their values and so protected democracy in the states. The history this Essay examines refutes each of these claims. Counting states that segregated education (or banned abortion) in 1868 was not a neutral or objective measure of the Constitution’s meaning; it expressed the interpreters’ values by perpetuating exclusions of the past into the future. The democracy it supported was a thin majoritarianism, democracy without rights that would protect the participation of those historically excluded from the democratic process. Race and gender conflicts over the abortion bans Dobbs authorized in Mississippi show how the liberty and democracy Dobbs protects perpetuate and entrench inequalities of 1868.

By reconstructing the lineage of arguments that state laws in 1868 are proxies for the original understanding, we can see how early forms of originalism and Dobbs’s history-and-tradition method grew out of resistance to Brown and backlash to the Warren and Burger Courts. Debate over Brown posed core questions about fidelity to the Constitution. We renew and sustain that debate on Brown’s seventieth anniversary as we ask how claims on the constitutional memory of Brown relate to its constitutional history.


July 24, 2023 in Abortion, Constitutional, Courts, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

SCOTUS to Hear Major Guns Case Involving Domestic Violence

Adam Liptak & Glenn Thrush, NYT, Supreme Court to Hear Major Guns Case Involving Domestic Violence

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to consider whether the government may forbid people subject to domestic violence orders from having guns, setting up a major test of its ruling last year vastly expanding people’s right to arm themselves in public.

The case will turn on the scope of a new legal standard established in that decision, one whose reliance on historical practices has sown confusion as courts have struggled to apply it, with some judges sweeping aside gun controls that have been on the books for decades.***

In March, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, said that new standard required it to strike down a federal law prohibiting people subject to domestic violence orders from possessing firearms because there was no historical support for it.

The case, United States v. Rahimi, No. 22-915, concerns Mr. Rahimi, a drug dealer in Texas with a history of armed violence, according to court records. In 2019, Mr. Rahimi assaulted his girlfriend and threatened to shoot her if she told anyone, leading her to obtain a restraining order. The order suspended Mr. Rahimi’s handgun license and prohibited him from possessing firearms.***

But the appeals court reversed course after the Bruen decision last June.

The Fifth Circuit rejected a variety of old laws identified by the government as possible historical analogues, saying they did not sufficiently resemble the one concerning domestic violence orders. Many of them, Judge Cory T. Wilson wrote for the panel, “disarmed classes of people considered to be dangerous, specifically including those unwilling to take an oath of allegiance, slaves and Native Americans.” That was different, he wrote, from domestic violence orders, which make case-by-case judgments about a particular individual’s dangerousness.

July 12, 2023 in Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

On 75th Anniversary of Women's Armed Services Integration Act Recalling Black Women's Military Leadership Since the Civil War

Wash Post, Black Women's Leadership in the Military Dates to the Civil War

This month marks 75 years since passage of the groundbreaking Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which permitted women to serve as full members of the U.S. armed forces in every branch. It also marks a decade since the Pentagon reversed its “ground combat exclusion policy.” That had allowed women to serve on combat ships, even though it banned them from serving in direct ground combat.

These changes have been monumental. While women represented just 2 percent of the U.S. military in 1948, they currently constitute roughly 18 percent of the armed forces. Yet a 2020 report shows that fewer than 1 percent of deployed active-duty combat troops are women. A fraction of them are African American women.

While the need to recognize and celebrate these historic milestones is paramount, these commemorations often forget that Black women led armies and fought behind enemy lines during the Civil War — long before President Harry S. Truman signed the historic legislation in 1948. Their military achievements have regularly been erased, eclipsed or distorted in service of building a national narrative that appealed to White Americans. Restoring this history to our understanding of the history of women’s role in the military helps us envision a national narrative that is both closer to the truth and that works for us all.

July 12, 2023 in Equal Employment, Legal History, Legislation, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 30, 2023

Women Shortlisted for the US Supreme Court, A Conversation with Judge Diane Wood

Renee Knake Jefferson, Hanna Brenner Johnson & Diane Wood, "Shortlisted: A Conversation Between Judge Diane Wood, Renee Knake Jefferson, and Hannah Brenner Johnson" 106(3) Judicature 8 (2023)

This article includes an edited excerpt from the book Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court and a discussion with the authors led by Judge Diane Wood, a senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. They discuss the book, the women who were passed over for seats on the Court, and the lessons their stories offer — for women judges and the legal profession as a whole.

June 30, 2023 in Courts, Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

New Book The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule

Angela Saini, The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule


In this bold and radical book, award-winning science journalist Angela Saini goes in search of the true roots of gendered oppression, uncovering a complex history of how male domination became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present.

Travelling to the world’s earliest known human settlements, analysing the latest research findings in science and archaeology, and tracing cultural and political histories from the Americas to Asia, she overturns simplistic universal theories to show that what patriarchy is and how far it goes back really depends on where you are.

Despite the push back against sexism and exploitation in our own time, even revolutionary efforts to bring about equality have often ended in failure and backlash. Saini ends by asking what part we all play – women included – in keeping patriarchal structures alive, and why we need to look beyond the old narratives to understand why it persists in the present.


The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule by [Angela Saini]

June 28, 2023 in Books, Gender, Legal History, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 23, 2023

New Book A Queer History of the Woman's Suffrage Movement

Book Talk, The Hidden Queer History of Boston Suffragettes

Author Wendy Rouse unearthed the stories of queer suffragettes in her book, "Public Spaces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Suffrage Movement," including some who lived in Massachusetts.

She joined WBUR's Morning Edition host Rupa Shenoy to talk about the local examples of queer people in the struggle for women's voting rights.***

"People are trying to erase the existence of gay and trans people in our present. But I think it's important that history reminds us that there have always been LGBTQ people and they will always exist."

June 23, 2023 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)