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Selected biographies 1
Alfred Thompson "Tom" Denning, Baron Denning, (23 January 1899 - 5 March 1999) was an English lawyer and judge. He was called to the bar of England and Wales in 1923 and became a King's Counsel in 1938. Denning became a judge in 1944 when he was appointed to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, and transferred to the King's Bench Division in 1945. He was made a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1948 after less than five years in the High Court. He became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1957 and after five years in the House of Lords returned to the Court of Appeal as Master of the Rolls in 1962, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement he wrote several books and continued to offer opinions on the state of the common law through his writing and his position in the House of Lords.
Margaret Thatcher said that Denning was "probably the greatest English judge of modern times". Mark Garnett and Richard Weight argue that he was a conservative Christian who "remained popular with morally conservative Britons who were dismayed at the postwar rise in crime and who, like him, believed that the duties of the individual were being forgotten in the clamour for rights. He had a more punitive than redemptive view of criminal justice, as a result of which he was a vocal supporter of corporal and capital punishment." However, he changed his stance on capital punishment in later life.
Denning was one of the most publicly known judges thanks to his report on the Profumo affair. He was noted for his bold judgments running counter to the law at the time. During his 38-year career as a judge he made large changes to the common law, particularly while in the Court of Appeal, and although many of his decisions were overturned by the House of Lords several of them were confirmed by Parliament, which passed statutes in line with his judgments. Although appreciated for his role as 'the people's judge' and his support for the individual, Denning was also controversial for his campaign against the common law principle of precedent, and for comments he made regarding the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and also as Master of the Rolls for his conflict with the House of Lords. (more...)
Selected biographies 2
Billings Learned Hand (; January 27, 1872 - August 18, 1961) was an American judge and judicial philosopher. He served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and later the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As of 2004 Hand had been quoted more often by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States than any other lower-court judge.
Hand is also remembered as a pioneer of modern approaches to statutory interpretation. His decisions in specialist fields, such as patents, torts, admiralty law, and antitrust law, set lasting standards for craftsmanship and clarity. On constitutional matters, he was both a political progressive and an advocate of judicial restraint. He believed in the protection of free speech and in bold legislation to address social and economic problems. He argued that the United States Constitution does not empower courts to overrule the legislation of elected bodies, except in extreme circumstances. Instead, he advocated the "combination of toleration and imagination that to me is the epitome of all good government". (more...)
Selected biographies 3
Antonin Gregory Scalia (; March 11, 1936 - February 13, 2016) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2016. He was described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court's conservative wing. For catalyzing an originalist and textualist movement in American law, he has been described as one of the most influential jurists of the twentieth century, and one of the most important justices in the Supreme Court's history. Scalia was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018, and the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University was named in his honor.
Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey. A devout Catholic, he received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. He then obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School and spent six years in a Cleveland law firm before becoming a law professor at the University of Virginia. In the early 1970s, he served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, eventually becoming an Assistant Attorney General. He spent most of the Carter years teaching at the University of Chicago, where he became one of the first faculty advisers of the fledgling Federalist Society. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Scalia as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In 1986, he was appointed to the Supreme Court by Reagan and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, becoming the Court's first Italian-American justice.
Scalia espoused a conservative jurisprudence and ideology, advocating textualism in statutory interpretation and originalism in constitutional interpretation. He peppered his colleagues with "Ninograms" (memos named for his nickname, "Nino") which sought to persuade them to agree with his point of view. He was a strong defender of the powers of the executive branch. He believed that the Constitution permitted the death penalty and did not guarantee the right to abortion or same-sex marriage. Furthermore, Scalia viewed affirmative action and other policies that afforded special protected status to minority groups as unconstitutional. These positions earned him a reputation as one of the most conservative justices on the Court. He filed separate opinions in many cases, often castigating the Court's majority using scathing language. Scalia's most significant opinions include his lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson (arguing against the constitutionality of an Independent-Counsel law), his majority opinion in Crawford v. Washington (defining a criminal defendant's confrontation right under the 6th Amendment), and his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller (holding that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to individual handgun ownership). (more...)
Selected biographies 4
Sir Robert Randolph Garran (10 February 1867 - 11 January 1957) was an Australian lawyer who became "Australia's first public servant" - the first federal government employee after the federation of the Australian colonies. He served as the departmental secretary of the Attorney-General's Department from 1901 to 1932, and after 1916 also held the position of Solicitor-General of Australia.
Garran was born in Sydney, the son of the journalist and politician Andrew Garran. He studied arts and law at the University of Sydney and was called to the bar in 1891. Garran was a keen supporter of the federation movement, and became acquainted with leading federalists like George Reid and Edmund Barton. At the 1897-98 constitutional convention he served as secretary of the drafting committee. On 1 January 1901, Garran was chosen by Barton's caretaker government as its first employee; for a brief period, he was the only member of the Commonwealth Public Service. His first duty was to write the inaugural edition of the Commonwealth Gazette, which contained Queen Victoria's proclamation authorising the creation of a federal government.
Over the following three decades, Garran provided legal advice to ten different prime ministers, from Barton to Joseph Lyons. He was considered an early expert in Australian constitutional law, and with John Quick published an annotated edition of the constitution that became a standard reference work. Garran developed a close relationship with Billy Hughes during World War I, and accompanied him to the Imperial War Cabinet and the Paris Peace Conference. Hughes, who was simultaneously prime minister and attorney-general, appointed him to the new position of solicitor-general and delegated numerous powers and responsibilities to him. He was knighted three times for his service to the Commonwealth, in 1917, in 1920 and in 1937. (more...)
Selected biographies 5
William Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett, (6 September 1883 - 10 February 1962) was a British barrister, judge, politician and preacher who served as the alternate British judge during the Nuremberg Trials.
Birkett received his education at Barrow-in-Furness Higher Grade School. He was a Methodist preacher and a draper before attending Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1907, to study theology, history and law. Upon graduating in 1910 he worked as a secretary and was called to the Bar in 1913.
Declared medically unfit for military service during World War I, Birkett used the time to make up for his late entry into the legal profession and was appointed a King's Counsel in 1924. He became a criminal defence lawyer and acted as counsel in a number of famous cases including the second of the Brighton trunk murders. A member of the Liberal Party, he sat in Parliament for Nottingham East twice, first in 1923 and again in 1929.
Despite refusing appointment to the High Court of Justice in 1928, he was offered the position again in 1941 and accepted, joining the King's Bench Division. In 1945 he served as the alternate British judge at the Nuremberg trials, and he was made a Privy Counsellor in 1947. He joined the Court of Appeal (England and Wales) in 1950 but retired in 1956 when he had served for long enough to draw a pension. From 1958 he served in the House of Lords, and his speech against a private bill in 1962 saw it defeated by 70 votes to 36, two days before he died on 10 February 1962. (more...)
Selected biographies 6
Sir William Garrow (13 April 1760 - 24 September 1840) was an English barrister, politician and judge known for his indirect reform of the advocacy system, which helped usher in the adversarial court system used in most common law nations today. He introduced the phrase "presumed innocent until proven guilty", insisting that defendants' accusers and their evidence be thoroughly tested in court. Born to a priest and his wife in Monken Hadley, then in Middlesex, Garrow was educated at his father's school in the village before being apprenticed to Thomas Southouse, an attorney in Cheapside, which preceded a pupillage with Mr. Crompton, a special pleader. A dedicated student of the law, Garrow frequently observed cases at the Old Bailey; as a result Crompton recommended that he become a solicitor or barrister. Garrow joined Lincoln's Inn in November 1778, and was called to the Bar on 27 November 1783. He quickly established himself as a criminal defence counsel, and in February 1793 was made a King's Counsel by HM Government to prosecute cases involving treason and felonies.
He was elected to Parliament in 1805 for Gatton, a rotten borough, and became Solicitor General for England and Wales in 1812 and Attorney General for England and Wales a year later. Although not happy in Parliament, having been returned only for political purposes, Garrow acted as one of the principal Whig spokesmen trying to stop criminal law reform as campaigned for by Samuel Romilly and also attempted to pass legislation to condemn animal cruelty. In 1817, he was made a Baron of the Exchequer and a Serjeant-at-Law, forcing his resignation from Parliament, and he spent the next 15 years as a judge. He was not particularly successful in the commercial cases the Exchequer specialised in, but when on Assize, used his criminal law knowledge from his years at the Bar to great effect. On his resignation in 1832 he was made a Privy Councillor, a sign of the respect HM Government had for him. He died on 24 September 1840. (more...)
Selected biographies 7
The Jena Six were six black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana, convicted in the 2006 beating of Justin Barker, a white student at the local Jena High School, which they also attended. Barker was injured on December 4, 2006, by the members of the Jena Six, and received treatment at an emergency room. While the case was pending, it was often cited by some media commentators as an example of racial injustice in the United States. Some commentators believed that the defendants had been charged initially with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.
A number of events had taken place in and around Jena in the months before the Barker assault, which the media have associated with an alleged escalation of local racial tensions. These events included the hanging of rope nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard, two violent confrontations between white and black youths, and the destruction by fire of the main building of Jena High School. Extensive news coverage related to the Jena Six often reported these events as linked. Federal and parish attorneys concluded from their investigations that assessment was inaccurate for some of the events; for instance, the burning of the high school was an attempt to destroy grade records. (more...)
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Selected biographies 9
Sherman "Shay" Minton (October 20, 1890 - April 9, 1965) was a United States Senator from Indiana and later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was a member of the Democratic Party.
After attending college and law school, Minton served as a captain in World War I, following which he launched a legal and political career. In 1930, after multiple failed election attempts, and serving as a regional leader in the American Legion, he became a utility commissioner under the administration of Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt. Four years later Minton was elected to the United States Senate. During the campaign, he defended New Deal legislation in a series of addresses in which he suggested it was not necessary to uphold the United States Constitution during the Great Depression. Minton's campaign was denounced by his political opponents, and he received more widespread criticism for an address that became known as the "You Cannot Eat the Constitution" speech. As part of the New Deal Coalition, Minton championed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful court packing plans in the Senate and became one of his top Senate allies.
After Minton failed in his 1940 Senate reelection bid, Roosevelt appointed him as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. After Roosevelt's death, President Harry S. Truman, who had developed a close friendship with Minton during their time together in the Senate, nominated him to the Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Senate on October 4, 1949, by a vote of 48 to 16, 15 Republicans and one Democrat (Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia) voting against him. He served on the Supreme Court for seven years. An advocate of judicial restraint, Minton was a regular supporter of the majority opinions during his early years on the Court; he became a regular dissenter after President Dwight Eisenhower's appointees altered the court's composition. In 1956, poor health forced Minton to retire, after which he traveled and lectured until his death in 1965. (more...)
Selected biographies 10
The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18-19 August 1612, along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. Of the eleven who went to trial - nine women and two men - ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.
The official publication of the proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, and the number of witches hanged together - nine at Lancaster and one at York - make the trials unusual for England at that time. It has been estimated that all the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions; this series of trials accounts for more than two per cent of that total. (more...)
Selected biographies 11
The Samlesbury witches were three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury - Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley - accused by a 14-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts, of practising witchcraft. Their trial at Lancaster Assizes in England on 19 August 1612 was one in a series of witch trials held there over two days, among the most famous in English history. The trials were unusual for England at that time in two respects: Thomas Potts, the clerk to the court, published the proceedings in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster; and the number of the accused found guilty and hanged was unusually high, ten at Lancaster and another at York. All three of the Samlesbury women were acquitted however.
The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. In contrast, the others tried at the same assizes, who included the Pendle witches, were accused of maleficium - causing harm by witchcraft. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when the chief prosecution witness, Grace Sowerbutts, was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest". (more...)
Selected biographies 12
Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron; July 16, 1947, sometimes referred to by her married surname Chesimard) is a former member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), who was convicted of being an accomplice in the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Shakur was also the target of the FBI's COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) directed against Black Power movement groups and activists.
Born in Flushing, Queens, she grew up in New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. After she ran away from home several times, her aunt, who would later act as one of her lawyers, took her in. She became involved in political activism at Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York. After graduation, she began using the name Assata Shakur, and briefly joined the Black Panther Party. She then joined the BLA, a loosely knit offshoot of the Black Panthers, which was engaged in an armed struggle against the US government through tactics such as robbing banks and killing police officers and drug dealers.
Between 1971 and 1973, she was charged with several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was arrested after being wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Also involved in the shootout were New Jersey State Troopers Werner Foerster and James Harper and BLA members Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Malik Shakur. Harper was wounded; Zayd was killed; Foerster was killed by Acoli. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping in relation to the shootout and six other incidents. She was acquitted on three of the charges and three were dismissed. In 1977, she was convicted of the murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout; her defense argued medical evidence suggested her innocence.
While serving a life sentence for murder, she escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in 1979. She surfaced in Cuba in 1984, where she was granted political asylum. Shakur has lived in Cuba since, despite US government efforts to have her returned. She has been on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list since 2013 as Joanne Deborah Chesimard and was the first woman to be added to this list. (more...)
Selected biographies 13
Sir Aubrey Melford Steed Stevenson (17 October 1902 - 26 December 1987) was an English barrister and later a High Court judge, whose judicial career was marked by his controversial conduct and outspoken views.
After establishing a legal career in the field of insolvency, Stevenson served during the Second World War as a Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces. He was subsequently Judge Advocate at the 1945 war crimes trial of former personnel of the German submarine U-852 for their actions in what became known as the Peleus affair. In 1954 Stevenson represented the government of British Kenya during Jomo Kenyatta's unsuccessful appeal against his conviction for membership of the rebel organisation Mau Mau. Later that year he represented the litigants in the Crichel Down affair, which led to changes in the law on compulsory purchase. In 1955 he defended Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed for murder in the United Kingdom. He was deeply distressed by the execution of Ellis, for whom there had been no defence in law, but who was expected to have been reprieved by Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George. Two years later, Stevenson took part in the unsuccessful prosecution of John Bodkin Adams for the murder of Edith Alice Morrell.
Stevenson became a High Court judge in 1957, and acquired a reputation for severity in sentencing. He sentenced the Kray twins to life imprisonment in 1969, with a recommendation that they serve not less than 30 years each. In 1970 Stevenson passed long sentences on eight Cambridge University students who took part in the Garden House riot, and the following year gave Jake Prescott of the Angry Brigade 15 years for conspiracy to cause explosions.
One of his fellow judges, Sir Robin Dunn, described him as "the worst judge since the war". After Dunn's attack, several high-profile legal figures came to Stevenson's defence, among them fellow judge and biographer Lord Roskill, who pointed out that Stevenson could be merciful to those he regarded as victims. Lord Devlin described Stevenson as the "last of the grand eccentrics". Stevenson retired from the bench in 1979 aged 76, and died at St Leonards in East Sussex on 26 December 1987. (more...)
Selected biographies 14
Choor Singh Sidhu (19 January 1911 - 31 March 2009), known professionally as Choor Singh, was a judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore and, particularly after his retirement from the bench, a philanthropist and writer of books about Sikhism. Born to a family of modest means in Punjab, India, he came to Singapore at four years of age. He completed his secondary education in the top class at Raffles Institution in 1929, then worked as a clerk in a law firm before becoming a civil servant in the Official Assignee's office.
Encouraged by the Assistant Official Assignee, James Walter Davy Ambrose (who was later appointed a High Court Judge), to study law, Choor Singh enrolled as an external student at the University of London, passing the matriculation examination and intermediate LL.B. examination. In 1948 he was appointed a coroner, and the following year was elevated to the post of magistrate, becoming the first Indian to hold such a position in colonial Malaya. Following law studies at Gray's Inn on a government scholarship, he became a Barrister-at-Law in 1955. He was appointed a district judge in 1960 and a judge of the Supreme Court in 1963. Especially noted for his criminal judgments, Singh was the first Singapore judge to impose the death penalty on a woman. (more...)
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Ioan Constantin Filitti (Romanian pronunciation: [i'on konstan'tin fi'liti], first name also Ion; Francized Jean C. Filitti; May 8, 1879 - September 21, 1945) was a Romanian historian, diplomat and conservative theorist, best remembered for his contribution to social history, legal history, genealogy and heraldry. A member of the Conservative Party and an assistant of its senior leader Titu Maiorescu, he had aristocratic (boyar) origins and an elitist perspective. Among his diverse contributions, several focus on 19th-century modernization under the Regulamentul Organic regime, during which Romania was ruled upon by the Russian Empire. As a historian, Filitti is noted for his perfectionism, and for constantly revising his own works.
I. C. Filitti had an auspicious debut in diplomacy and politics, but his career was mired in controversy. A "Germanophile" by the start of World War I, he secretly opposed the pact between Romania and the Entente Powers, and opted to stay behind in German-occupied territory. He fell into disgrace for serving the collaborationist Lupu Kostaki as Prefect and head of the National Theater, although he eventually managed to overturn his death sentence for treason. Filitti became a recluse, focusing on his scholarship and press polemics, but was allowed to serve on the Legislative Council after 1926.
In his political tracts, written well after the Conservative Party's demise, I. C. Filitti preserves the orthodox conservative principles of Maiorescu. His attachment to boyar tradition was expanded into a critique of centralized government, etatism and Romanian liberalism. Toward the end of his life, he supported the dictatorial regime known as National Renaissance Front. (more...)
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Selected biographies 17
Claud Schuster, 1st Baron Schuster, (22 August 1869 - 28 June 1956) was a British barrister and civil servant noted for his long tenure as Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Office. Born to a Mancunian business family, Schuster was educated at St. George's School, Ascot and Winchester College before matriculating at New College, Oxford in 1888 to read history. After graduation, he joined the Inner Temple with the aim of becoming a barrister, and was called to the Bar in 1895. Practising in Liverpool, Schuster was not noted as a particularly successful barrister, and he joined Her Majesty's Civil Service in 1899 as secretary to the Chief Commissioner of the Local Government Act Commission.
After serving as secretary to several more commissions, he was made Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Office in 1915. Schuster served in this position for 29 years under ten different Lord Chancellors, and with the contacts obtained thanks to his long tenure and his work outside the Office he became "one of the most influential Permanent Secretaries of the 20th century". His influence over decisions within the Lord Chancellor's Office and greater Civil Service led to criticism and suspicions that he was a "power behind the throne", which culminated in a verbal attack by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Hewart in 1934 during a session of the House of Lords. Schuster retired in 1944 and was elevated to the peerage. Despite being officially retired he continued to work in government circles, such as with the Allied Commission for Austria and by using his seat in the House of Lords as a way to directly criticise legislation. (more...)
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Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 - July 9, 1974) was an American politician and jurist who served as Governor of California from 1943 to 1953 and Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969. The "Warren Court" presided over a major shift in American constitutional jurisprudence, which has been recognized by many as a "Constitutional Revolution" in the liberal direction, with Warren writing the majority opinions in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Loving v. Virginia (1967). Warren also led the Warren Commission, a presidential commission that investigated the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He is the last Chief Justice to have served in an elected office before entering the Supreme Court, and is generally considered to be one of the most influential Supreme Court justices and political leaders in the history of the United States.
Warren served as Thomas E. Dewey's running mate in the 1948 presidential election, but Dewey lost the election to incumbent President Harry S. Truman. Warren sought the Republican nomination in the 1952 presidential election, but the party nominated General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After Eisenhower won election as president, he appointed Warren as Chief Justice. A series of rulings made by the Warren Court in the 1950s led directly to the decline of McCarthyism. Warren helped arrange a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. After Brown, the Warren Court would continue to issue rulings that helped bring an end to the segregationist Jim Crow laws that were prevalent throughout the South. In Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), the Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits racial segregation in public institutions and public accommodations.
In the 1960s, the Warren Court handed down several landmark rulings that significantly transformed criminal procedure, redistricting, and other areas of the law. Many of the Court's decisions incorporated the Bill of Rights, making the protections of the Bill of Rights apply to state and local governments. Schmerber v. California established that forced extraction of a blood sample is not compelled testimony, illuminating the limits on the protections of the 4th and 5th amendments and Warden v. Hayden dramatically expanded the rights of police to seize evidence with a search warrant, reversing the 'mere evidence' rule. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) established a criminal defendant's right to an attorney in felony cases, and Miranda v. Arizona (1966) required police officers to give what became known as the Miranda warning to suspects taken into police custody that advises them of their constitutional protections. Reynolds v. Sims (1964) established that all state legislative districts must be of roughly equal population size, while the Court's holding in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) required equal populations for congressional districts, thus achieving "one man, one vote" in the United States. Furthermore, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) struck down a state law that restricted access to contraceptives and established a constitutional right to privacy, and Loving v. Virginia (1967) struck down state anti-miscegenation laws, which had banned or otherwise regulated interracial marriage. Warren announced his retirement in 1968 and was succeeded by Appellate Judge Warren E. Burger (Burger Court) in 1969. The Warren Court's rulings have received criticism, but have received widespread support and acclamation from both liberals and conservatives. As yet, few of the Court's decisions have been overturned. (more...)
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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (; 2 October 1869 - 30 January 1948) was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British rule, and in turn inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mah?tm? (Sanskrit: "great-souled", "venerable"), first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.
Born and raised in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat, western India, Gandhi trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, and was called to the bar at age 22 in June 1891. After two uncertain years in India, where he was unable to start a successful law practice, he moved to South Africa in 1893 to represent an Indian merchant in a lawsuit. He went on to stay for 21 years. It was in South Africa that Gandhi raised a family, and first employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. In 1915, aged 45, he returned to India. He set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule. (more...)
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Scipio Africanus Jones (August 3, 1863 – March 2, 1943) was an American educator, lawyer, judge, philanthropist, and Republican politician from the state of Arkansas. He was most known for having guided the appeals of the twelve African-American men condemned to death after the Elaine Race Riot of October 1919. More than one hundred African Americans were indicted in the aftermath of the riot, although an estimated one hundred to two hundred Black Americans were killed in the county, along with five whites. No whites were prosecuted by the state. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which in Moore v. Dempsey (1923) set a precedent of reviewing the conduct of state criminal trials against the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Born into slavery in Smith Township near Tulip in Dallas County in south Arkansas, Jones became a successful and powerful businessman. Jones was the first lawyer in Arkansas to raise the question that African Americans had not been permitted to serve on grand juries and petit juries. In 1915, Jones broke a color barrier when he was appointed to serve as acting judge of the Little Rock police court, presiding over a case in which all the parties were blacks, as were the witnesses and attorneys except the city attorney, who supported having a Negro judge preside at this particular trial. Jones also represented Negro Shriners as part of a successful defense against efforts to keep them from using the name and paraphernalia of the Shriners organization. (more...)
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Warren Grant "Maggie" Magnuson (April 12, 1905-May 20, 1989) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a U.S. Representative (1937–1944) and a U.S. Senator (1944–1981) from Washington. He served over 36 years in the Senate, and was the most senior member of the body during his final two years in office. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1929, and became active in politics in 1928, volunteering for A. Scott Bullitt for governor and Al Smith for president. In 1929, Magnuson was admitted to the bar and joined the law office of Judge Samuel Stern in Seattle. He served as special prosecutor for King County in 1932, investigating official misconduct. He was a leading supporter of repealing state Prohibition laws and establishing the state Liquor Control Board. From 1933 to 1934, Magnuson served as a member of the Washington House of Representatives from the Seattle-based 37th Legislative District. As a state legislator, he sponsored the first unemployment compensation bill in the nation. He was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1933. He briefly served as Assistant United States District Attorney before being elected prosecuting attorney of King County, serving from 1934 to 1936.
Magnuson was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1936, filling a vacancy caused by the sudden death of fellow Democrat Marion Zioncheck on August 7, 1936. In 1937, along with senators Homer Bone and Matthew Neely, Magnuson introduced the National Cancer Institute Act, which was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt on August 5 of that year. He won re-election in 1938, 1940, and 1942. In 1944, Magnuson successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. He was appointed on December 14, 1944 to fill the vacancy created by Homer Bone's appointment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, thus resigning from the House and starting his service in the Senate a month early. He was re-elected in 1950, 1956, 1962, 1968, and 1974. He served on the Senate Commerce Committee throughout his tenure in the Senate, and the Senate Appropriations Committee during his final term. (more...)
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William Mark Felt Sr. (August 17, 1913 - December 18, 2008) was an American law enforcement officer who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1942 to 1973 and was known for his role in the Watergate scandal. Felt was an FBI special agent who eventually rose to the position of Associate Director, the Bureau's second-highest-ranking post. Felt worked in several FBI field offices prior to his promotion to the Bureau's headquarters. In 1980 he was convicted of having violated the civil rights of people thought to be associated with members of the Weather Underground, by ordering FBI agents to break into their homes and search the premises as part of an attempt to prevent bombings. He was ordered to pay a fine, but was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan during his appeal.
In 2005, at age 91, Felt revealed that during his tenure as associate director of the FBI he had been the notorious anonymous source known as "Deep Throat" who provided The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with critical information about the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Though Felt's identity as Deep Throat was suspected, including by Nixon himself, it had generally remained a secret for 30 years. Felt finally acknowledged that he was Deep Throat after being persuaded by his daughter to reveal his identity before his death. (more...)
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Charles Edward Magoon (December 5, 1861 - January 14, 1920) was an American lawyer, judge, diplomat, and administrator who is best remembered as a governor of the Panama Canal Zone, Minister to Panama, and an occupation governor of Cuba. He was also the subject of several scandals during his career.
As a legal advisor working for the United States Department of War, he drafted recommendations and reports that were used by Congress and the executive branch in governing the United States' new territories following the Spanish-American War. These reports were collected as a published book in 1902, then considered the seminal work on the subject. During his time as a governor, Magoon worked to put these recommendations into practice. (more...)
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Sir Matthew Hale (1 November 1609 - 25 December 1676) was an influential English barrister, judge and jurist most noted for his treatise Historia Placitorum Coronæ, or The History of the Pleas of the Crown. Born to a barrister and his wife, who had both died by the time he was 5, Hale was raised by his father's relative, a strict Puritan, and inherited his faith. In 1626 he matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), intending to become a priest, but after a series of distractions was persuaded to become a barrister like his father thanks to an encounter with a Serjeant-at-Law in a dispute over his estate. On 8 November 1628 he joined Lincoln's Inn, where he was called to the Bar on 17 May 1636. As a barrister, Hale represented a variety of Royalist figures during the prelude and duration of the English Civil War, including Thomas Wentworth and William Laud; it has been hypothesised that Hale was to represent Charles I at his state trial, and conceived the defence Charles used. Despite the Royalist loss, Hale's reputation for integrity and his political neutrality saved him from any repercussions, and under the Commonwealth of England he was made Chairman of the Hale Commission, which investigated law reform. Following the Commission's dissolution, Oliver Cromwell made him a Justice of the Common Pleas. (more...)
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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, PC, SL (2 March 1705 – 20 March 1793) was a British barrister, politician and judge noted for his reform of English law. Born to Scottish nobility, he was educated in Perth, Scotland, before moving to London at the age of 13 to take up a place at Westminster School. He was accepted into Christ Church, Oxford, in May 1723, and graduated four years later. Returning to London from Oxford, he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn on 23 November 1730, and quickly gained a reputation as an excellent barrister.
He became involved in politics in 1742, beginning with his election as a Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge, now in North Yorkshire, and appointment as Solicitor General. In the absence of a strong Attorney General, he became the main spokesman for the government in the House of Commons, and was noted for his "great powers of eloquence" and described as "beyond comparison the best speaker" in the House of Commons. With the promotion of Sir Dudley Ryder to Lord Chief Justice in 1754, he became Attorney General, and when Ryder unexpectedly died several months later, he took his place as Chief Justice.
As the most powerful British jurist of the century, Mansfield's decisions reflected the Age of Enlightenment and moved the country onto the path to abolishing slavery. He advanced commercial law in ways that helped establish the nation as world leader in industry, finance and trade. He modernised both English law and the English courts system; he rationalized the system for submitting motions and reformed the way judgments were delivered to reduce expense for the parties. For his work in Carter v Boehm and Pillans v Van Mierop, he has been called the founder of English commercial law. He is perhaps now best known for his judgment in Somersett's Case (1772), where some historians believe that he held that slavery had no basis in common law and had never been established by positive law (legislation) in England, and therefore was not binding in law; this judgement did not, however, end slave trafficking. That was because Mansfield's ruling in the Somerset case only made it illegal to transport a slave out of England against his will. (more...)
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Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden (7 October 1762 – 4 November 1832), was a British barrister and judge who served as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench between 1818 and 1832. Born in obscure circumstances to a barber and his wife in Canterbury, Abbott was educated initially at a dame school before moving to The King's School, Canterbury in 1769. He was noted as an excellent student, receiving an exhibition scholarship from the school in March 1781, when he matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Here he was elected a fellow, and also served as a tutor to the son of Sir Francis Buller, which first made him consider becoming a barrister. He joined the Middle Temple in 1787, transferring to the Inner Temple in 1793, and was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1796. Abbott was noted as an excellent barrister, earning more than any other during his time at the Bar, despite being considered unimaginitive and a poor speaker. He was offered a position as a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1808, which he turned down; he accepted the same offer in 1816, receiving the customary knighthood and being appointed a Serjeant-at-Law.
Three months after he started sitting as a judge he was transferred to the Court of King's Bench, where he was initially rather poor, being unfamiliar with the court's business. Within two years he showed "the highest judicial excellence", and when Lord Ellenborough had a stroke in 1818, Abbott was chosen to replace him as Lord Chief Justice. His reign at the head of the Court of King's Bench saw the court flourish, with strong justices and his own much-admired abilities. He was appointed to the peerage in 1827, sitting as Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden, and initially attended the House of Lords regularly. His opposition to the Reform Act 1832, which he claimed treated city corporations "with absolute contempt", led to his refusal to attend the Lords. Continuing to sit as Lord Chief Justice, Abbott gradually grew weaker, and finally fell ill halfway through a two-day trial. His disease baffled doctors, and he would die on 4 November 1832 at his home in Queen Square, London. (more...)
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Lloyd Kenyon, 1st Baron Kenyon (5 October 1732 - 4 April 1802), was a British politician and barrister, who served as Attorney General, Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice. Born to a country gentleman, he was initially educated in Hanmer before moving to Ruthin School aged 12. Rather than going to university he instead worked as a clerk to an attorney, joining the Middle Temple in 1750 and being called to the Bar in 1756. Initially almost unemployed due to the lack of education and contacts which a university education would have provided, his business increased thanks to his friendships with John Dunning, who, overwhelmed with cases, allowed Kenyon to work many, and Lord Thurlow who secured for him the Chief Justiceship of Chester in 1780. He was returned as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hindon the same year, serving repeatedly as Attorney General under William Pitt the Younger. He effectively sacrificed his political career in 1784 to challenge the ballot of Charles James Fox, and was rewarded with a baronetcy; from then on he did not speak in the House of Commons, despite remaining an MP.
On 27 March 1784, he was appointed Master of the Rolls, a job to which he dedicated himself once he ceased to act as an MP. He had previously practised in the Court of Chancery, and although unfamiliar with Roman law was highly efficient; Lord Eldon said "I am mistaken if, after I am gone, the Chancery Records do not prove that if I have decided more than any of my predecessors in the same period of time, Sir Lloyd Kenyon beat us all". On 9 June 1788, Kenyon succeeded Lord Mansfield as Lord Chief Justice, and was granted a barony. Although not rated as highly as his predecessor, his work "restored the simplicity and rigor of the common law". He remained Lord Chief Justice until his death in 1802. (more...)
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Sir Nicholas Fuller (1543 - 23 February 1620) was an English barrister and Member of Parliament. After studying at Christ's College, Cambridge, Fuller became a barrister of Gray's Inn. His legal career there began prosperously--he was employed by the Privy Council to examine witnesses--but was hampered later by his representation of the Puritans, a religious tendency which did not conform with the established Church of England. Fuller was repeatedly in contention with the ecclesiastical courts, including the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission, and was once expelled for the zeal with which he defended his client. In 1593 he was returned as the Member of Parliament for St Mawes, where he campaigned against the extension of recusancy laws. Outside of Parliament, he successfully brought a patents case which not only undermined the right of the Crown to issue patents but accurately predicted the attitude taken by the Statute of Monopolies two decades later.
Returned to Parliament in 1604 for the City of London, Fuller became considered the "leader of the opposition" due to his conflict with the government over policy, fighting the impositions on currants, the patent on blue starch, and opposing the proposed union with Scotland on legal and economic grounds. In 1607, in what became known as Fuller's Case, he again began challenging the Court of High Commission, and eventually got the Court of Common Pleas under Sir Edward Coke to agree that the common law courts had the power to free imprisoned ecclesiastical prisoners. These encounters with the ecclesiastical courts were described as "bruising", but by 1610 he was considered an "elder statesman", introducing bills on ecclesiastical reform and the statutory management of customs duties. He continued to sit in Parliament until his death on 23 February 1620. (more...)
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Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 - 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle-class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1738. After switching to and completing a Bachelor of Civil Law degree, he was made a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, on 2 November 1743, admitted to Middle Temple, and called to the Bar there in 1746. Following a slow start to his career as a barrister, Blackstone became heavily involved in university administration, becoming accountant, treasurer and bursar on 28 November 1746 and Senior Bursar in 1750. Blackstone is considered responsible for completing the Codrington Library and Warton Building, and simplifying the complex accounting system used by the college. On 3 July 1753 he formally gave up his practice as a barrister and instead embarked on a series of lectures on English law, the first of their kind. These were massively successful, earning him a total of £453 (£71,000 in 2020 terms), and led to the publication of An Analysis of the Laws of England in 1756, which repeatedly sold out and was used to preface his later works.
On 20 October 1759 Blackstone was confirmed as the first Vinerian Professor of English Law, immediately embarking on another series of lectures and publishing a similarly successful second treatise, titled A Discourse on the Study of the Law. With his growing fame, he successfully returned to the bar and maintained a good practice, also securing election as Tory Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Hindon on 30 March 1761. In November 1765 he published the first of four volumes of Commentaries on the Laws of England, considered his magnum opus; the completed work earned Blackstone £14,000 (£1,961,000 in 2020 terms). After repeated failures, he successfully gained appointment to the judiciary as a Justice of the Court of King's Bench on 16 February 1770, leaving to replace Edward Clive as a Justice of the Common Pleas on 25 June. He remained in this position until his death, on 14 February 1780.
Blackstone's four-volume Commentaries were designed to provide a complete overview of English law and were repeatedly republished in 1770, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1778 and in a posthumous edition in 1783. Reprints of the first edition, intended for practical use rather than antiquary interest, were published until the 1870s in England and Wales, and a working version by Henry John Stephen, first published in 1841, was reprinted until after the Second World War. Legal education in England had stalled; Blackstone's work gave the law "at least a veneer of scholarly respectability". William Searle Holdsworth, one of Blackstone's successors as Vinerian Professor, argued that "If the Commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it very doubtful that the United States, and other English speaking countries would have so universally adopted the common law." In the United States, the Commentaries influenced Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, James Wilson, John Jay, John Adams, James Kent and Abraham Lincoln, and remain frequently cited in Supreme Court decisions. (more...)
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Thomas Jefferson Hogg (24 May 1792 – 27 August 1862) was a British barrister and writer best known for his friendship with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Hogg was raised in County Durham, but spent most of his life in London. He and Shelley became friends while studying at University College, Oxford, and remained close until Shelley's death. During their time at Oxford they collaborated on several literary projects, culminating in their joint expulsion following the publication of an essay titled "The Necessity of Atheism". They remained good friends, but their relationship was sometimes strained because of Hogg's attraction to the women who were romantically involved with Shelley.
Hogg became a barrister and met Jane Williams, who had become a close friend of Percy Shelley's shortly before the poet's death. Jane became Hogg's common-law wife and they had two children together. The family settled in London, although Hogg's legal career meant that he often had to travel away from home.
While living in London Hogg made the acquaintance of several well-known writers, and he published literary works of his own. He studied Greek literature for much of his life and published several articles on the subject, including two entries in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Most of the fiction he wrote was poorly reviewed. His best-known literary work was The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, an unfinished biography of the poet. Although the book was well researched and painted a clear picture of Shelley as a young man, it was criticised for portraying him negatively.
Hogg was well connected with Whig politicians. He received an appointment to a government commission on municipal corporations and became a revising barrister. His legal career was moderately successful, but he was often frustrated by his failure to attain his goal of becoming a professor or judge. Nevertheless, he was able to provide for his family thanks to an inheritance and the income from his legal career. (more...)
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Sir Edward Coke ( "cook", formerly ; 1 February 1552 - 3 September 1634) was an English barrister, judge, and politician who is considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.
Born into an upper-class family, Coke was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, before leaving to study at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the Bar on 20 April 1578. As a barrister he took part in several notable cases, including Slade's Case, before earning enough political favour to be elected to Parliament, where he served first as Solicitor General and then as Speaker of the House of Commons. Following a promotion to Attorney General he led the prosecution in several notable cases, including those against Robert Devereux, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. As a reward for his services he was first knighted and then made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
As Chief Justice, Coke restricted the use of the ex officio (Star Chamber) oath and, in the Case of Proclamations and Dr. Bonham's Case, declared the King to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of "common right and reason". These actions eventually led to his transfer to the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, where it was felt he could do less damage. Coke then successively restricted the definition of treason and declared a royal letter illegal, leading to his dismissal from the bench on 14 November 1616. With no chance of regaining his judicial posts, he instead returned to Parliament, where he swiftly became a leading member of the opposition. During his time as a Member of Parliament he wrote and campaigned for the Statute of Monopolies, which substantially restricted the ability of the monarch to grant patents, and authored and was instrumental in the passage of the Petition of Right, a document considered one of the three crucial constitutional documents of England, along with Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689.
Coke is best known in modern times for his Institutes, described by John Rutledge as "almost the foundations of our law", and his Reports, which have been called "perhaps the single most influential series of named reports". Historically, he was a highly influential judge; within England and Wales, his statements and works were used to justify the right to silence, while the Statute of Monopolies is considered to be one of the first actions in the conflict between Parliament and monarch that led to the English Civil War. In America, Coke's decision in Dr. Bonham's Case was used to justify the voiding of both the Stamp Act 1765 and writs of assistance, which led to the American War of Independence; after the establishment of the United States his decisions and writings profoundly influenced the Third and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution while necessitating the Sixteenth. (more...)
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