The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

"In the Matter of the Disinterment of Warren G. Harding, Deceased"


Yes, that's a real case; here's the opening paragraph of the applicant's reply brief:

Applicant James Blaesing's ("Applicant") efforts to collect DNA from President Warren Harding's remains present a unique disinterment scenario. This is not a dispute over a decedent's final resting place or a battle over estate proceeds. This is an attempt by President Harding's grandson to prevent others from questioning his lineage and usurping his right to control how his family's story is told….

Applicant seeks universal, permanent recognition ofhis ancestry, not wealth or worldly resources. "Proper pride in one's ancestry and in the worthiness of one's parents is a necessary part of the equipment of a well-balanced person, for as it has been said: 'Pride is the savage rear guard of the human soul, and fights when all other resources have been exhausted.'"

From the New York Times (Heather Murphy):

There is no real dispute that James Blaesing is the grandson of Warren G. Harding and his mistress. But the wounds of that revelation have resurfaced in court, as relatives of the 29th president, many now in their 70s, argue over a proposal to exhume President Harding's body as the 100th anniversary of his election approaches.

On one side is Mr. Blaesing, who says the exhumation is necessary to prove with "scientific certainty" that Harding was his grandfather, even though the DNA evidence is already persuasive, and to confirm his and his mother's "membership in a historic American family." He also wants to bring along a television production crew to document the opening of the tomb.

On the other side are several Harding relatives who say the disinterment would create an unnecessary spectacle. One has questioned the motives of the television production company, believing it is fixated on the unfounded theory that Harding, who died in office in 1923, was poisoned—perhaps by his wife, Florence Harding.

Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center MediaLawDaily newsletter for the pointer.