Gorsuch Project Launched

Hearings on the nomination of the Honorable Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to begin March 20 and interest in the nominee’s judicial record is high. To assist researchers, we’re proud to announce the launch of the Neil Gorsuch Project, a website that assembles all of Gorsuch’s written opinions, as well as concurrences and dissents he either wrote or joined as a judge for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Lists of published articles and speeches by Gorsuch are also included. 

The idea for the Gorsuch Project was born after law librarians from several universities and government offices faced a similar question from their patrons: “Find as much information about the new Supreme Court nominee as possible.” The results of that inquiry form the core of the site’s content. More about the project and its contributors can be found on the website.

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Jon Ashley

Jon Ashley has been the Business Research Librarian at the University of Virginia Law Library since 2008. Prior to coming to UVA he was a general reference librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his M.L.S..

Historians in the Archive — Talk at Virginia Consortium of Early Americanists

The ‘historians in residence’ at Law Special Collections – Loren Moulds (Digital Collections Librarian) and Jim Ambuske (Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities) – presented at this year’s annual meeting of the Virginia Consortium of Early Americanists. The consortium, supported by the Omohondro Institute, serves as a forum for scholars of early America working in the Commonwealth. Jim and Loren, alongside Susan Perdue of the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, presented on the theory and practice of constructing digital archives.

The Scottish Court of Session Records Digitization Project

Jim provided an early preview of the Law Library’s Scottish Court of Session Records digital archive. He gave a brief overview of the history of the Scottish Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland, and explained that as a court of appeal and of first instance, the court held jurisdiction over contract and commercial cases, succession and land ownership, divorces, intellectual property and copyright, among many other civil matters. More than reports of judicial decisions, these documents tell a new and understudied story of life, law, and trade in the British Atlantic world away from the imperial capital of London.

These documents offer a window into the everyday lives of the peoples of the British Atlantic and possess valuable potential as a digital corpus. Narratives of commercial ventures and descriptions of investor networks in bankruptcy cases reveal the larger commercial and legal regime in which this commerce operated and illuminate the experiences of otherwise overlooked participants such as sailors, wives, farmers, customs officers, and middling traders. This collection provides a body of primary materials that offer new insights into the eighteen‑century British Empire for scholars of history, sociology, economics, and law. The project plans to digitize these records, revealing relevance that might otherwise be overlooked because of the ways in which eighteenth and nineteenth century clerks, archivists and collectors catalogued these materials to better serve the needs of the legal process.

Supreme Court of Scotland documents
A map and case materials, examples of the rich content within the documents found inside the Library’s collection of Scottish Court of Session papers.

In his presentation, Jim underscored how these documents illuminate interpersonal relationships that often spanned the Atlantic. For scholars of American history, these seemingly unlikely sources provide a new perspective on America’s colonial and early national periods. Jim noted that the papers speak to a diversity of topics relevant to American history including the tobacco trade between Scotland and North America, commerce between North America and the Caribbean, tensions between North American and British manufacturing and fishing interests, Atlantic travel and migration, and the imperial crisis that preceded the American Revolution. Jim concluded his talk by laying out the decisions Law Special Collections staff made to ‘open up’ the collection to researchers, such as providing full-text access; drawing connections between documents using maps, timelines, and prosopography; developing interpretive taxonomies; and planning to provide exploratory themes.

Jim’s discussion of the interpretative aspects of the developing Scottish Court of Sessions Digital Archive provided a springboard into Loren’s talk, which reflected on the value of the historian’s training in the conceptualization and construction of digital archives projects. Loren spoke of the practice of making interpretive interventions into online collections to enhance their value to scholars and the public. Bringing the historian’s perspective to the materials individually and as a collection asks a series of questions: Why are these materials valuable and to whom? What is hidden in them? What could opening them up offer to researchers? What is appealing? Where could these documents contribute to established fields of study? How do these materials speak to historical questions that remain unanswered or underserved?

Building Interpretive Layers into Digital Archives

Loren then applied this methodology to the construction of the Law Library’s digital archives, noting that constructing layers of interpretation and sophisticated interfaces can greatly add to a collection’s value to researchers. The process involves the creation of an interpretive system for accessing, remixing, and drawing connections between the documents. In addition to rich description and full-text indexing, library staff codifies entities that appear within the documents, such as events, people, places, or overarching case themes, and then develops sophisticated relational linkages and taxonomic connections between the documents and these entities. These linkages are the real value-added aspect of this approach and its one that requires an historian’s eye to properly create. As opposed to entering into the process with presupposed conclusions, we instead allow the materials to speak to us and interrogate them using our training as historians.

As the process proceeds and the digital archive begins to emerge, we offer models of interpretation and analytical tools for interacting with the content within the materials. In creating models of interpretation, we act like a sommelier for our collection to offer informed suggestions for the types of materials most useful to particular scholars. We try to produce short articles, blog posts, or curated lists of related content with suggestions for further research that speak to a variety of research interests.

We also endeavor to provide analytical tools that embrace evolving, modern methods of analyzing and visualizing the data in our collection. Maps, timelines, or topic-modeling-derived visualizations are digital ways to interrogate a broad array of evidence and begin the work of drawing informed conclusions. We try to situate our collections within a global framework by drawing explicit connections to other materials within the Law Library or elsewhere and envision the inclusion our digital archives in federated databases. These tools encourage historians to look at larger patterns and connections while still being able to target particular documents in which they may be interested.

The Law Library’s approach tries to digitize a considerably large quantity of documents and to provide rich descriptions of these materials. The approach, however, is not simply about the creation of big data: we are not particularly interested in “digitize, dump, and release.” Data is most useful when presented through conceptual frameworks because at the end of the day it is aggregated historical evidence. Our process attempts to contextualize the data in the collection and suggest unexplored or underdeveloped questions or arguments.

Loren suggested as well that the Law Library’s model embraces aspects of the burgeoning field of Critical Archives Theory: by questioning existing subject headings, descriptive frameworks, and data models, we can subvert or challenge established wisdom about how archival items should be collected, cataloged, described, or used. These interpretive choices must be made transparently and in ways that engage with the scholarly community. We recognize the taxonomies created for the Law Library’s digital archives are a product of modern historical interpretation. A noteworthy example from UVA main libraries system are the efforts of librarians in collaboration with the Take Back the Archive project aimed at better interpretation of controlled vocabularies—in this instance Library of Congress Subject Heading terms—for application to archival description of materials related to sexual violence on grounds.

Loren concluded his presentation by noting that archives ought to participate in broader conversations with historians and other scholars about meaningful ways to open up archival material using digital technology. He suggested that digital history or digital archives projects share much in common with traditional scholarly productions, such as articles or monographs. Arguably, digital archives can be defined as concrete scholarly contributions featuring evidence-backed assertions that engage with historiography, ask historical questions, and highlight connections to primary materials – research that begets other research. Their construction is inherently collaborative and should not be understood as exclusively archival or technological endeavors. Historians in the archive can empower archival databases to speak to other historians, acting as promoters and translators, broadening the definition of scholarship available to historians.

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Looking for a Public History Internship in Summer 2017? Join the Special Collections Team at the Law Library.

The Special Collections team at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library is looking for two excellent summer interns to help us with exciting projects in digital history. We’ve partnered with UVA’s Institute for Public History to create two experiential learning opportunities for one undergraduate and one graduate student.

The first initiative is the “Digital 1828 Catalogue Collection Project.” It will help illuminate the history of the Law School and Thomas Jefferson’s vision for legal education in the early American republic. We aim to build a virtual library that will hold digitized copies of the over 700 legal texts originally listed in the university library’s 1828 catalogue. Our goal is inspire new research in legal history by making these rare volumes easily accessible to scholars, and create a new tool that will help other libraries digitally preserve their own rare book collections. We seek a graduate student to help us digitize the volumes, perform research on the texts, and work with us and our partners across grounds to develop the website. 

The second project is “Diary of a Dean: The Life of William Minor Lile.” The Law School’s first dean was born two years before the outbreak of the American Civil War and died two years after Adolf Hitler assumed power in Nazi Germany. In 1882, Lile began the first of what became an eleven volume journal. The entries document life in Charlottesville and Virginia as the post-war United States began to exert greater influence on the world stage. We seek an undergraduate student to help us digitize all eleven journals, assist in the creation of a new transcription of the volumes, and develop some interpretative content for the website. 

These internships are designed to give students practical public history experience in a team-based environment that includes the Digital Collections Librarian, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Archivist, and the metadata specialists. We’ll work with you to accomplish your own professional goals as we together tell stories about the past. 

Please see the Institute for Public History’s website for complete details about the internships and the application form. Applications are due to Lisa Goff, director of the institute, by 5 p.m. on 3 February 2017.

If you have questions about either of the internships please contact Jim Ambuske or Loren Moulds

 

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Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections oninterpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr.’s Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Era

The rancorous 2016 presidential election concluded on November 8th with Republican Donald J. Trump’s dramatic upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Voters went to the polls to choose the nation’s next leader, and by doing so entrusted the next president with the power to shape the composition of the Supreme Court for a generation. President-elect Trump will now have the opportunity to nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death earlier this year created a vacancy that remains unfilled despite President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. On the campaign trail and the debate stage both Clinton and Trump spoke to the kind of justices they would appoint to the court. It served as a reminder of the Supreme Court’s political nature and the central role that the justices who compose it play in forming a more perfect Union. 

The passing of a former Supreme Court law clerk four days before the election affords us a chance to pull back the granite curtain on the court’s inner workings during an earlier period of intense division within American society. E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., who died on November 4, 2016 after a long career of public service and a successful private practice, clerked for the Court in the mid-1950s when it handed down its momentous decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The unanimous decision in that case overturned the “separate but equal” racial segregation precedent established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) by declaring that segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The landmark case was a crucial moment in the early Civil Rights Movement, a period in which Americans of every creed and color contested the fundamental meanings of liberty, equality, and citizenship in the republic.

Prettyman’s personal copy of the Brown v. Board of Education decision  with the signatures of the Supreme Court Justices.
Prettyman’s personal copy of the Brown v. Board of Education decision
with the signatures of the Supreme Court Justices.

In 1986, Prettyman donated a large portion of his legal papers to the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. They offer valuable insights into the Court’s internal deliberations over Brown v. Board of Education and other prominent cases in the period.[1] Equally important, they put a human face on some of the Court’s black-robed personalities and illuminate the special bond that clerks formed with their justices as they together interpreted and refined American law.

Prettyman, Jr. was a 1949 Yale University graduate and the son of Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The younger Prettyman completed his law degree in 1953 at the University of Virginia School of Law. During his time at UVA he was a member of the Student Legal Forum, an organization newly created to bring prominent legal minds to Grounds. In 1951, Prettyman, no doubt benefiting from his father’s position on the appellate court, arranged for Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson to speak on Grounds.[2] Two years later Justice Jackson hired Prettyman to serve as one of his law clerks at a salary of $5,175.50. His performance warranted a nearly $1,000 raise the following year, but he joined Justice John M. Harlan in November 1954 after Justice Jackson suffered a fatal heart attack.[3] Prettyman served Justice Felix Frankfurter during this period as well.

Becoming Justice Jackson’s law clerk in 1953 thrust Prettymen into the Court’s deliberations over Brown v. Board of Education. The justices first heard arguments in the consolidated case the previous December and ordered re-arguments for the fall of 1953. Some of the justices, particularly Frankfurter, hoped that in the interim Congress would outlaw public school segregation and thus avoid the need for judicial intervention. Justice Stanley F. Reed preferred that the states end segregation on their own terms. Despite their collective misgivings many of the justices were at least open to the idea of striking down the Plessy doctrine. Others required more convincing. The proponents for overturning the “separate but equal” precedent feared that an opinion issued by a divided court risked undermining the legitimacy of the ruling. Dissenting opinions could lend a measure of credence to the belief that segregation was constitutionally sound and bolster advocates for segregation in state and local communities.   

While Frankfurter did not get his wish for congressional intervention, the death of Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson in September 1953 changed the Court’s dynamics in unexpected ways. The Kentuckian’s fellow justices believed that he would vote to uphold Plessy on the basis of well-established judicial precedent. Vinson’s demise was for Frankfurter “the first indication I have ever had that there is a God.”[4] It brought a new chief justice to the Court in the form of California Governor Earl Warren and the potential for a unanimous decision in Brown’s favor.

After the Court reheard arguments in December 1953 the new chief famously worked to persuade his colleagues, including Justice Reed, that overturning Plessy was both a legal and moral imperative.[5] The Court would issue a unanimous decision to strike down the separate but equal doctrine. The question then became whether the justices would release a single opinion or deliver multiple concurring statements.

For a number of months Justice Jackson considered authoring a separate opinion. He believed that Plessy should be undone, although he struggled to find a satisfactory legal theory to support his position. His draft opinion well reflected this difficulty in its conclusion that the “mere possession of colored blood, in whole or in part, no longer affords a reasonable basis for a classification for educational purposes and that each individual must be rated on his own merit.”[6] In other words, instead of identifying a precise point of law with which segregation conflicted, Justice Jackson’s opinion rested on the assumption that segregation was no longer legally defensible. Even then the main thesis occupied very little space in his draft document. The opinion itself meandered through an exploration of southern culture and African–American advancement in post-Civil War America to the legislative history of the 5th and 14th Amendments and their respective Due Process Clauses, the problem of enforcing the Court’s order, and the acceptance of segregation’s constitutionality in American history. Only then did Justice Jackson weakly assert that segregation no longer had a legal basis.

The Justice gave his draft opinion to Prettyman for his evaluation. The young lawyer immediately recognized its unfocused nature. Indeed, as Prettyman pointed out to Justice Jackson in a lengthy critique, the legal reasoning to strike down Plessy was stated “in only two out of 23 pages” and was “almost an afterthought.” Prettyman was blunt with his mentor: The document had an “apologetic” tone as if “you were ashamed to reach” its conclusion. Delivering a sheepish concurring opinion, he argued, would undermine the Court’s authority because “Some one must make these decisions, and under our system the burden is on the courts.” An opinion should be confidently argued and forcefully given to retain the public’s confidence in the Court’s decision. Whatever conclusions the majority or individual justices reached, the public needed to feel that “it is a decision based upon law” and not the wishes of “a bunch of liberals in Washington” foisting their views on the masses.[7]

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Re Nos. 1-4, c. March-May 1954.
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Re Nos. 1-4, c. March-May 1954.

 

Prettyman believed that Justice Jackson’s draft opinion appeared weak and apologetic in part because the Justice could not say with precision how he knew that sufficient racial equality had been achieved or when it had happened. Both Justice Jackson’s draft opinion and Prettyman’s memorandum traded in contemporary ideas of racial inferiority and uplift that informed sociological and intellectual attitudes about African Americans in the mid-twentieth century.[8] Prettyman suggested that the Justice restructure his opinion by moving his conclusion to the beginning and justifying it through an exploration of the expansion of public education in the United States. He pointed to the Justice’s underlying theme that “public education is no longer for the privileged few” and that as America had “adopted [Thomas] Jefferson’s great dream” of a broadly educated public, “mass education, for all people, is simply an established fact in this country today.” Repackaging his discussion about black social and intellectual advancement since Emancipation would then allow the Justice to counter pro-segregation arguments based on assertions of racial inequality and in turn argue that “the races are no longer sufficiently unequal or distinct to warrant” separate but equal policies.[9]

Justice Jackson ultimately decided not to issue a concurring opinion. A combination of his initial heart attack in March 1954, his own inability to develop a sound legal theory, and Chief Justice Warren’s desire for a unified statement prevented him from finishing the work.[10] In a memo from December 1954, Prettyman recorded that Justice Jackson was about to begin refining his opinion based on his clerk’s critique when he became ill. Nevertheless, one morning, following a visit from Chief Justice Warren to his hospital room, Justice Jackson asked Prettyman to write a concise paragraph based on his evaluation. The Chief Justice was due back in the afternoon and Justice Jackson believed that Warren’s own draft opinion “could use a little more law.” While the paragraph is not among Prettyman’s papers in the UVA Law Library, Prettyman’s memo suggests that he delivered to Justice Jackson language that declared an end to legal segregation in general, and not just in public education. The two justices discussed Prettyman’s paragraph (with Jackson giving the Chief Justice an oral summary of it) before deciding that the Court’s final opinion should remain focused just on segregation in public education.[11] The Court, with Justice Jackson in attendance despite his recent heart attack, announced its decision on May 17, 1954.

Prettyman’s critical reading of Justice Jackson’s draft opinion demonstrates the trust that Supreme Court justices place in their law clerks to assist them in their duties. Justice Jackson and his colleagues well understood that Brown v. Board of Education was one of the most important cases ever to come before the Court. Their historical awareness of the moment added to the challenge they faced in crafting an opinion that overturned established doctrines rooted in social norms and law dating back well before Plessy v. Ferguson. Justice Jackson’s collaboration with Prettyman to meet that task helped him to see where he had fallen short in articulating the unconstitutionality of segregation even though he felt the practice should end. Prettyman and his fellow law clerks played crucial roles in this and other cases to help the Court “say what the law is.”[12]

The bond between Prettyman and the justices he served extended far beyond their intellectual discussions about the law. Humorous exchanges at surprising moments hinted at the respect and even the friendship that they felt for one another. An exchange between Prettyman and Justices Frankfurter and Hugo Black illustrates this point. On April 20, 1955, the Court reheard oral arguments in the case of Ellis v. Dixon. The case pitted James R. Ellis, the president of the Yonkers Committee for Peace, against William Dixon and the members of the Board of Education of the City of Yonkers. The Committee wanted to use Yonkers public school buildings to hold a forum on peace and war, but the school board denied its request. The Committee claimed that the Yonkers school board had violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of its members.

Unfortunately for the Committee, its lawyers could not really say just how the Yonkers school board had violated their constitutional rights. They conceded that the school board had the power to deny use of its facilities to non-scholastic groups and claimed that the school board applied state and local regulations selectively, although they could not offer the Court a specific example.

Justice Frankfurter thought that the case was a big waste of time. He silently questioned why the Court had even agreed to take the case in the first place as he listened to the plaintiffs. Frankfurter, a man with a forceful, if not intimidating, personality, sent a note to Prettyman who was sitting in the audience. “Believe it or not,” he wrote, “but I am resolved not to say a word in his case! FF.”[13] Prettyman played along. He returned the note with the reply, “I’ll give you 25¢, 6 jelly beans and a pat on the back if you keep your promise.” The “jelly beans” comment referred to a recent news story about Albert Einstein and his acceptance of candy or baked goods in exchange for helping young people with their math homework.[14] Frankfurter didn’t miss a beat: “You must have read the Einstein story about ‘jelly beans.”

 

Justice Felix Frankfurter to Prettyman, 20 April 1955.
Justice Felix Frankfurter to Prettyman, 20 April 1955.

As the Yonkers Committee’s lawyer continued Justice Frankfurter grew more and more impatient. “Of all the baseless certs,” he again wrote to Prettyman, “this is it!!” Still, he did not ask any questions. Frankfurter explained his uncharacteristically quiet demeanor in a fourth note: “My silence is meant to be disdain and contempt. FF.” It did not last much longer. Chief Justice Warren asked the Committee’s lawyer a question at the conclusion of his oral argument that then turned into a discussion about filing further briefs. Frankfurter, perhaps fearing that even more of the Court’s time would be squandered, “almost exploded with a combination question and comment.”[15] When Frankfurter had finished, Justice Black, aware of the bet, sent a note of his own to Prettyman. “Don’t let him off on a technicality,” he wrote, “that was a question.” Sensing that he may have lost the wager, Frankfurter quickly sent another note ruling that “my intervention was after the argument, on a point unrelated to the argument — and so, please 25¢, 6 jelly beans.”

Prettyman retreated to his office to type out a formal “opinion” that held Justice Frankfurter in violation of the agreement. He sent it to Frankfurter who was, as a reminder, still sitting on the bench hearing the case. The justice soon sent it back with his replies. Prettyman reiterated that Frankfurter had promised to remain silent during the lawyer’s oral argument and that the lawyer had not yet rested his case when Frankfurter spoke. “The ‘case’ is over,” Frankfurter replied, “in the sense in which the word ‘case’ was used in context.” That was to say, it wasn’t much of a case at all. To Prettyman’s observation that Justice Black had overruled him, Frankfurter responded that he “did not know [Black] had that power without four more.” Finally, Prettyman lamented that while Frankfurter laid claim to the money and jelly beans, he had said nothing about the pat on the back. “That’s a sad commentary on our friendship,” Prettyman ribbed. Frankfurter underlined “pat on the back” and exclaimed that “I’d rather have that than even 60 jelly beans!” His view of the case was vindicated when the Court ruled 5-4 that the writ of certiorari had been improvidently granted.[16]

 

Prettyman and Frankfurter exchange # 7, 20 April 1955.
Prettyman and Frankfurter exchange # 7, 20 April 1955.

What the E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. Papers at UVA’s Morris Law Library offer us is a rare view into the Supreme Court’s inner sanctum and the people who inhabited it at a critical turning point in American history. The Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education lent momentum to a growing Civil Rights Movement that transformed American society in profound ways. Prettyman’s files allow us to glimpse into the Court’s internal struggle to reach a decision and into Justice Jackson’s ultimately futile search for a legal theory to support his concurrence. They also reveal a more human side of the Court, one that shows the justices as capable of humor and warmth even as they sat on the bench hearing a case.  

In January 2017, President-elect Trump will begin the process of reshaping the Supreme Court by appointing a new woman or man to fill Justice Scalia’s seat. If the recent election is any indication, the person whom Mr. Trump nominates will probably provoke passions on both sides of the political spectrum on his or her way through a contentious confirmation process. The Prettyman Papers can help scholars and the interested public look past the ideological walls often thrown up during a change in the Court’s structure to see the justices and those with whom they worked on their own terms as they grappled with important matters of law and society. Researchers wishing to consult this important collection may do so online or in person by contacting the Arthur J. Morris Law Library at lawarchives@virginia.edu.

Featured image: Justice Harlan at a 1965 reunion with his law clerks. Prettyman stands behind and to the right of Justice Harlan, center. From The Papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. 1944 – 1982.

[1] Prettyman, Jr. donated another collection of his papers to the Special Collections Library at the University of Maryland. See E. Barrett Prettyman papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1530; For more on the relationship between Prettyman, Jr. and Justice Jackson, see the Robert H. Jackson Papers, 1892-1954 in the Library of Congress, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/eadmss.ms003002.

[2] Robert H. Jackson to E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., 8 October 1951; Jackson to Prettyman, Jr., 6 November 1951, Papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. MSS 86-5, Box 1, Special Collections, University of Virginia Law Library.

[3] Justice Jackson’s secretary to J. C. Reynolds, 18 May 1953; Contract to Clerk for Robert H. Jackson, 1 June 1954; Prettyman, Jr. to John M. Harlan, 12 November 1954, all in Ibid.

[4] Frankfurter quoted in Michael J. Klarman, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2007), 67.

[5] My account of these deliberations follows James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2001), 52-65; Klarman, Brown v. Board, 55-78.  See Risa L. Goluboff, The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2007), for an important look at the history of American civil rights law before Brown v.  Board of Education.

[6] “Memorandum by Mr. Justice Jackson” in Mark Tushnet, ed., I Dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 144. As Tushnet notes, Justice Jackson’s opinion was not a dissent, but he chose to include it in his edited collection for the provocative ways that pro-segregationists might have turned it into a de facto dissent.

[7] Prettyman, Re Nos. 1-4, c. March-May 1954, Prettyman Papers, MSS 86-5, Box 2.

[8] For a good general discussion of uplift ideology see Kevin K. Gaines, “Racial Uplift Ideology in the Era of ‘the Negro Problem.’” Freedom’s Story, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. Accessed 10 November 2016,
http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/freedom/1865-1917/essays/racialuplift.htm.

[9] Prettyman, Re Nos. 1-4, c. March-May 1954, MSS 86-5, Box 2.

[10] The original copy of Justice Jackson’s memo is in the Library of Congress. See “Memorandum by Mr. Justice Jackson.” Brown file, Robert H Jackson Papers. Library of Congress. The document came to light after William H. Rehnquist’s 1986 Senate confirmation hearings to become chief justice. In 1952, Rehnquist had written a memo for Justice Jackson entitled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases” in which he argued that “Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be re-affirmed.” The memo became a source of contention during the confirmation hearings as Rehnquist claimed that it reflected Justice Jackson’s views and not his own. Justice Jackson’s draft concurring opinion in Brown v. Board of Education suggests otherwise. See Bernard Schwartz, A History of the Supreme Court (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 289-291.

[11] Prettyman, “Notes re Segregation Decision, 15 December 1954, Prettyman Papers, MSS 86-5, Box 2.

[12] Marbury v. Madison (1803).

[13] The notes exchanged between Prettyman, Frankfurter, and Black are all dated 20 April 1955 and are in Prettyman Papers, MSS 86-5, Box 4.

[14] I have not found the specific article that Prettyman alludes to, but Walter Isaacson discuses Einstein’s candy-for-homework-help bargains in his Einstein: His Life and Universe (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 439-440. Kent Olson, Head of Research Services at the UVA Law Library, worked his magic to turn up an article in The Washington Post from 1940 that mentions Einstein’s quid pro quo. See Leonard Lyons, “The New Yorker,” The Washington Post, 24 October 1940. 

[15] Prettyman to Marsha Trimble Rogers, 16 March 1989, Prettyman Papers, MSS 86-5, Box 4.

[16] Ellis v. Dixon (1955). For Prettyman, Jr.’s analysis of the case and his recommendation that the writ of certiorari be dismissed as improvidently granted see “Memorandum by Pretty Regarding Ellis v. Dixon, circa 1955,” Prettyman Papers, MSS 86-5, Box 2. 

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Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections oninterpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

Jakubow Presents Data at Death Penalty Symposium

UVA Law Empirical Research Librarian Alex Jakubow attended an intriguing one-day symposium titled “The Death Penalty’s Numbered Days?” this month at Northwestern University, which was graciously organized and hosted by the editorial board of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Jakubow and UVA law professor Brandon Garrett joined a group of legal scholars in situating the modern death penalty in doctrinal, historical, and empirical contexts and debating when and how (if at all) the abolition of the death penalty in the U.S. would occur.

Garrett and Jakubow presented some of their empirical research on the decline of the death penalty in the U.S. since the 1990s. With help from a dedicated team of research assistants, Garrett has assembled a unique dataset covering each of the more than 4,800 death sentences issued in the U.S. between 1991 and 2015. The data reveals that the number of counties sentencing individuals to death has declined precipitously over the course of the previous two-and-a-half decades—from a peak of well over 200 counties in 1994 to just 38 counties last year. The five counties producing the greatest number of death sentences during this period (Los Angeles County, California; Harris County, Texas; Maricopa County, Arizona; Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; and Riverside County, California) account for nearly 14% of all death sentences, but the number of death sentences is in decline even among these erstwhile bastions of the death penalty.

County Death Sentencing Trends 1990-2015Key finding of the study are that more densely-populated counties and counties with proportionally-greater minority populations engage in more death sentencing, even after controlling for homicide rates, levels of income, and other key variables. The study also finds that sentencing behavior is a highly path-dependent phenomenon—counties that engaged more actively in sentencing individuals to death in the past are more likely to continue doing so in the present. Garrett and Jakubow hope to glean more insights about the driving forces behind these path-dependent processes in future research.

The collection of this sentencing data is a significant accomplishment in its own right, and Garrett and Jakubow intend to make this data publicly available as a resource for scholars, legal practitioners, and advocacy groups to use in their own work very soon.

The results of Garrett and Jakubow’s research will be featured in a forthcoming symposium issue on the death penalty in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology sometime in the summer of 2017. This research will also be featured in Professor Garrett’s forthcoming monograph on the death penalty—The Triumph of Mercy: How the Demise of the Death Penalty can Revive Criminal Justice—which is currently under contract with Harvard University Press.

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Alex Jakubow

Alex is Empirical Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia School of Law. Alex received his B.A. in history and political science from the University of Richmond in 2008 and his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University in 2014. Prior to coming to Virginia, Jakubow worked as a researcher in the Office of Institutional Analysis at New Mexico State University. He has also taught classes in political science and research methodology at New Mexico State University, California State University at San Marcos, and Rutgers University.

“It’s Time for the Lightning Round!”

The term “Lightning Round” may call to mind nerve-racking Quiz Bowls from grade school or the fast and furious stock-picking segment of Jim Cramer’s CNBC show Mad Money. In recent years, however, the lightning round has become a feature of academic conferences and symposia, especially those that involve the digital humanities. Speakers deliver quick presentations of about three minutes each to highlight the core essence of a new project, scholarly method, digital tool, or teaching resource. These rapid fire talks, like the one that I gave with Project Director Loren Moulds on the Scottish Court of Sessions Records Digital Archive at the recent DH@UVA Conference, seek to promote one’s work in ways that stimulate future conversations or potential collaborations.

The traditional academic conference mind meld usually involves a series of panels composed of three or four presenters delivering twenty-minute presentations to their peers on their latest work. They underscore Karin Wulf’s important point that conferences continue to serve as “a vital and distinctive forum for scholarly exchange.” This format is a useful way to articulate an evolving argument or new methodological intervention in some detail, creating the opportunity for the presenter to receive helpful comments or critiques of their scholarship from the audience while contributing to our body of knowledge.

It can also be difficult at times to understand the payoff of any given paper. I have seen—and given—presentations that lack focus or struggle to convey a project’s major points and an answer to the “so what?” question at the heart of any academic research initiative. We’ve all been there. We’ve all listened to and delivered them. These presentations are like Dementors for which we have no effective Patronus Charm.

Incorporating Lightning Rounds into the conference format will never ward off all of the demons, but it does offer practical and pedagogical ways to reinvigorate an intellectual gathering. This is not to say that we should abandon traditional panels altogether. It is simply to suggest that seasoning our conferences with Lightning Rounds can add some much needed flavor.

Unlike the code duello that governed Alexander Hamilton’s fateful encounter with Aaron Burr there are only a few things you need to know about a Lightning Round’s general rules:

1. Speakers typically have three minutes to talk.

2. Visual components to the presentation are limited to three slides.

3. The official Time Keeper enforces the three-minute limit with vigorous enthusiasm. Speakers are afforded a 15-second warning before their time ends. Violators are subject to public scorn. (Not really, but it is considered uncouth to go beyond your allocated time).

4. All presentation slides are packaged into one PowerPoint for ease of transition between speakers.

5. Brief live-demos of projects are fair game as well so long as the speaker stays within the three minutes.

Loren and I used the DH@UVA Conference to talk about our Scottish Court of Session Project and begin to build relationships with people who might want to use this splendid collection or help us think through the challenges of building a digital archive.

Slide 1: Scottish Court of Session Records website home page
Slide 1: Scottish Court of Session Records website home page on the UVA Law Library Special Collections website.

In a nutshell, the Law Library began to develop this project nearly two years ago under the direction of Loren and former postdoctoral fellow Randi Flaherty, now a fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. We are constructing a Drupal-based digital archive out of 64 linear feet of legal records produced by the Scottish Court of Session. The court is Scotland’s civil court of first instance and appeal. The Law Library Special Collections and Archives holds about 2,500 cases that date between 1759 and 1834. As Randi noted in the project’s early days, and what has only become clearer as we continue the work, these documents reveal hidden histories of trade, migration, and life in the British Empire in the years surrounding the American Revolution.

Repositories in Edinburgh and Aberdeen hold the largest Session collections. These holdings date back to the sixteenth century and they are indexed principally by case name. The index provides an excellent entry point into the material. It also reflects the choices that all archives face concerning how much time and energy should be allocated to heavily describing particular collections as opposed to others. The National Records in Scotland and its associated archives are charged with preserving the rich history of an ancient nation. Making records accessible for scholarly and pubic use is a daunting task that shapes decisions about the level of detail that should be provided. The team behind the Georgian Papers Project, an initiative to digitize and describe the papers of George III and his family, is wrestling with these questions at this very moment. So are we at the Law Library as we dive into our Session records in earnest. The relatively smaller size of our Sessions collection affords us the flexibility to experiment with our description process and build into this digital archive ways to collaborate with our fellow institutions in the future.

While these cases contain petitions, court briefs, and appendixes, they reveal more than contested points of law. They pull back the curtain on the everyday lives of people living in Scotland or circulating in the British Atlantic in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They contain correspondence, census lists, voter rolls, corporate charters, shipping records, marriage contracts, and a wealth of other data, along with maps, architectural renderings, and patent designs created as part of the litigation process.

Slide 2 - Information for Elizabeth and Barbara Cunninghames (1775) and "Ground Plan and Elevation of the Distillery" (1828)
Slide 2: Information for Elizabeth and Barbara Cunninghames (1775) and “Ground Plan and Elevation of the Distillery” (1828)

This archive within an archive reveals how people used their property, how they ran their businesses, how old friends became enemies, how woman used the law to defend their interests, and how individuals established personal and economic connections that spanned an ocean and an empire. And almost all of our documents, like the collections in Scotland, feature marginalia created by their former owners that are unique to each collection.

We have developed a rich description process to extract metadata from these complex materials.

Students and staff tease out valuable information such as the people named in the documents, where they lived, their roles in cases, their relationships to each other, and to what organizations they belonged, among other data points. We are also looking at ways to augment the collection through additional research on people and organizations, and to signal to scholars the variety of sources one might encounter in these materials.

Metadata creation is currently underway in anticipation of beginning large-scale digitization in 2017. Our hope is that this project generates new questions about the British Atlantic World as it underwent a period of remarkable change. Students will handle the bulk of the actual digitization of the material. We will create master preservation TIF files for each of the documents and send them to Academic Preservation Trust, perform optical character recognition on corresponding PDF files using ABBYY, make the text searchable via Apache Solr, and generate JPG files for insertion into our Drupal database. Once finished, researchers will have the ability to download searchable PDF versions of the documents.

Slide 3 - Workflow and Technology
Slide 3: Workflow and Technology

In a practical sense, Lightning Rounds like those at DH@UVA can break up the more monotonous aspects of conference going by exposing attendees to a significant number of new ideas or projects in a very short time span. Earlier this year at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta, fourteen individuals gave DH presentations over the course of an hour. Then the panel’s organizer, Stephanie Kingsley, very kindly invited audience members with DH projects to show off their work as well. At the DH@UVA Conference, twenty-four individuals or teams gave these talks over the course of about an hour on a Friday afternoon. It was a terrific way to learn about work underway across the university, discover new potential collaborators, or think about curricular development with visitors such as Paige Normand from James Madison University.

Pedagogically, developing and giving a Lightning Round talk can help students (or senior scholars) to distill a project or argument down to its essential elements. Mentors constantly remind their graduate students to have a brief elevator speech at the ready for that moment when they encounter their intellectual heroes in a conference’s book display room or when they land an on-campus interview featuring a dozen or more individual thirty-minute meetings. Participating in a Lightning Round is a good way for graduate students to hone their pitch and gain confidence in delivering it.

The same lessons are applicable to undergraduates. In two research seminars on the American Revolution I had my students give longish prospective topic presentations to their classmates. My goal was to have them practice their public speaking skills and foster a discussion among them about their respective research interests. It did not always work out well. They often struggled to fill the allotted time, could not provide a clear sense of why their topic excited them, or why in their view it was important. In retrospect, I did not provide a reasonable structure for this assignment. In the next version of my course, I will structure these presentations as lightning talks to encourage students to think more concretely about their topic’s big picture. Hopefully, this will create a framework for class discussion that produces more questions than answers.

The Lightning Round at DH@UVA enabled us to share the Court of Session digital archive project with our colleagues in the university community in a concise way. It forced us think about what we considered to be its most important aspects and how to communicate those ideas effectively. Crucially, it exposed us to new ideas that our colleagues are employing in their own work and led to interdisciplinary conversations afterwards that are beginning to shape our thinking as we plot out the project’s next phases. These Lightning Rounds create the possibility for meaningful, perhaps even electrifying, intellectual engagement.

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Published by

Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections oninterpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

Remembering Jeb

With deep sadness, the Law Library joins Special Collections assistant Teresa Ritzert in mourning the loss of her service dog, Bubba JEB (“Just Everyone’s Bubba”), who succumbed to canine cancer on Monday.

While at the Law Library, Jeb acquired another job as well. Once he got Teresa safely settled in her office, he would act as the Library’s social chair.  Stationing himself at his regular spot in the hallway outside Teresa’s door, Jeb would watch intently for any sign of a friend – whether that friendship was established or just about to be – who would stop by to give a treat or a rub. Jeb took his duties as social chair very seriously, setting up a daily schedule of rounds for himself on the first and second floors, stopping for brief visits wherever each of his BFFs (that is to say, everyone) was regularly found.When Teresa came to work for the Special Collections department of the Law Library in July 2015, Jeb came to work here, too. Jeb’s primary job was to escort Teresa, who is deaf, to and from work. Last fall, MoreUs featured a two-part article on Jeb and his life as a service dog.

Last fall, we learned with great sorrow that Jeb had cancer. Through chemotherapy, remission and the eventual resurgence of his illness, Jeb came to work nearly every day, never shirking his duties of service, nor on his social obligations. Even when depleted of energy by his illness, he would rally at the sight of a student or staff member “bubba,” bounding down the hall to greet them with exuberance and joy. Students and staff were very supportive of Jeb and Teresa throughout Jeb’s illness. Some brought in a regular supply of venison for his special diet. Others visited frequently and took him outside for walks. Teresa attributes much of Jeb’s unexpectedly long life and well-being to the outpouring of love and support that he received from the Law School community.

The Law Library has set up a memorial display for Jeb at the bottom of the main stairway. A large writing pad has been placed there for those who wish to share their thoughts and memories of Jeb with Teresa.

Many songs require ears to be heard, but those like Jeb’s require only the heart. Though Jeb is gone, his song goes on, and we are all the richer for it.  

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Welcome, Rebecca Hawes!

AJM is delighted to welcome Rebecca Hawes as our new Faculty Services Coordinator. Rebecca manages faculty delivery requests and the Student Delivery Service (SDS). She also supports faculty research, data services, and social media outreach, and she staffs the circulation desk.

Faculty Services Coordinator Rebecca Hawes
Faculty Services Coordinator Rebecca Hawes

Rebecca graduated from the University in 2014 with B.A.s in American Studies and Religious Studies. Most recently she was a college adviser at Nelson County High School, where she worked to improve college access for first-generation, underrepresented, and low-income students. She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University through its distance learning program. Rebecca is a fan of dogs, dance and travel. Her favorite destinations to date have been London, Paris, and Salzburg.  

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

New Charging Station in MyLab

You’re in the middle of watching a really funny cat video when your phone informs you that its battery is at 3% and you’d better plug in soon if you want to see how it all ends. You reach into your backpack for your life-line — the charger! — only to remember all too clearly that you left it in the outlet in your bedroom.

Once this would have been a problem, but no more. MyLab now offers you the opportunity to recharge yourself and your device at the same time! Just plug in, relax for a bit, and you’ll soon be happily viewing again. The plugs provide full-speed charging for both Apple and Android phones and tablets. 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Fall Introduction to Mindfulness for Law Students Workshop

Sign Up Now!

Law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer. The UVA Mindfulness Center’s introduction to mindfulness enhances your law school learning by giving you tools to focus, retain information, communicate effectively, and handle stress.

What is it? Eight, 75-minute weekly sessions of hands-on, expert-guided practice in mindfulness techniques like meditation, mindful eating, mindful listening, and mindful movement, led by the UVA Mindfulness Center. 

When does it meet? Tuesdays, 3:45-5pm, September 13 to November 8 (no meeting during Fall Break). There will be a half-day Saturday retreat.

Where is it? At the Law School.

Who can sign up? The workshop is open to all law students, and free of charge (sponsored by the Law Library). Enrollment is limited. To sign up email Kristin in the Library (klg3n@virginia.edu).   

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Published by

Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.