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Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:54 PM

Walter Rhett: Justice Scalia, No Fear of His Own Horror



It’s not the 4th of July, but I’m having flashbacks to two century-old Supreme Court cases involving liberty: Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott.

Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom on the grounds he moved from a state that chartered slavery to federal territory that didn’t recognize slavery as a legal institution, and did recognize a number of citizenship rights for blacks including marriage. Therefore as a resident in a free land with no provision for slavery, he should be free. The Supreme Court’s decision, by seven to two, abrogated his right, but also states’ rights. When it came to slavery, the court ruled the slave had no standing to bring a legal case against his or her status. The court also firmly declared slaves were property, chattel, having “no rights any white man was bound to respect.” Despite state laws, a slave transported to Massachusetts remained in bondage.

The Dred Scott decision was only the second time an act passed by Congress was ruled unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roger Taney’s written decision struck down the Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, which limited the expansion of slavery into federal territories.

The 14th Amendment removed Dred Scott as a legal precedent, but it remains important in history, as example of how US law is interpreted and rights altered through the institutions of the courts, states, and federal government. For often, law is about ends and means, what it affirms and what it denies...


More at: http://www.democratsforprogress.com/2012/06/27/digging-deeper-justice-scalia-no-fear-of-his-own-horror/

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