Nice words

Supreme Court by dbking

I was reading some blogs about recent Supreme Court decisions and I was again taken with the fact that important legal views are so often based on simple arguments. That the more convoluted and twisted a logical argument is, the more likely it is to be worng.

For me, a great example of this is the dissent of John Marsall Harlan in Plessy v Ferguson, The dissent is more courageous and eloquent than the timid voices of the majority. The thing to remember is that we eventually decided the dissenter was right. He was upholding the principles of the Nation even when all others were compromising them.

I wrote about Plessy v Ferguson many years ago. You can read the entire document for Plessy v Ferguson but I wanted to quote just a small part that so quickly and simply makes his point. He does not need to argue semantics or to create novel definitions of words. His logic is not tortured nor does it require years of legal training to understand. He simply states what we have now know is right.

… I deny that any legislative body or judicial tribunal may have regard to the race of citizens when the civil rights of those citizens are involved. Indeed, such legislation as that here in question is inconsistent not only with that equality of rights which pertains to citizenship, national and state, but with the personal liberty enjoyed by every one within the United States.


But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guarantied by the spreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a state to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race.

In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case.

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