Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: March 8, 1841

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3/8/1841: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's birthday.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

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    1. “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Buck v. Bell, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

      1. I honestly think that’s what Daivd was specifically thinking of when he said “never wrong”.

        1. I think you’re probably right. I was going to make a joke about certain commenters here being the three generations of imbeciles, but the punch line would have been just too obvious.

          1. Lamson v. American Ax & Tool
            Federal Baseball League

            He got a lot of stuff wrong. But having said that, he was one of the founders of American free speech law, correctly dissented in Lochner, and was a great legal theorist whose works about legal reasoning completely hold up.

            1. 1. The area of liability should be small, but within that area, it should be all but absolute.
              2. It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule than that such was laid down in the time of Henry IV.
              3. The life of the law is not logic but experience.
              4. The law is always approaching consistency but never reaching it.

              All true. That said . . . when I was a law review editor (we used books in those days) a professor came in to our office asking if we had the law library’s copy of “The Common Law”. I said, “Oh yes, that boring book . . . Here it is.”

            2. He’s the guy who gave us the pathetic “fire in a crowded theater” analogy. I don’t give him credit for a bunch of far-less-influential 1A dissents thereafter.

        2. Abortion rights and genetics have caught up to this opinion. CRISPR will end the problem.

          Add prescient to always right. It upsets you because prevention is bad for the lawyer business.

          1. You are not worthy of this blog.

  1. I’m wondering if Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski is significant enough to supplant Holmes in the future.

    1. I hope it becomes tremendously important, so that generations of law professors who unctuously correct students’ Latin pronunciation are forced to struggle with the case name.

  2. Shouldn’t this be something about women because today is “shove identity politics down your throat whether or not you like it day” or something like that?

    A guy I know tried to get into a “Zoom brunch” his place of employment was hosting (do ladies not eat lunch, only brunch these days) because he wanted to hear the speaker but was kicked out because he was of the wrong gender. This happened at a huge company so they should know better.

    1. Jimmy, whites have been doing identity politics for centuries. Slavery was identity politics. Jim Crow was identity politics. Redlining was identity politics. The simple refusal of businesses to consider hiring minorities was identity politics. Legacy admissions to ivy league universities was identity politics.

      Males have been doing identity politics for centuries. Not allowing women to vote or own property in their own name was identity politics. Excluding women from certain professions was identity politics. The college professor who, in the 1940s, announced to a class my mother was taking that he never gave a woman a higher grade than a C+ was identity politics.

      Identity politics only became a problem when people who aren’t white males started doing it. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, white males should be flattered that women and minorities are now doing what white males have been doing for centuries.

      Oh, and you’re right; the guy who got kicked out of the zoom brunch does indeed have a case for gender discrimination. He should file it. I’d take that case if he walked into my office.

      1. Slavery was more supply and demand. It had little to do with identity other then some people from the same area were more than happy to sell their enemies who then sailed them off to a foreign land. Of course though this will never get acknowledged.

        1. If true, so what? Once the slaves got here, their lot in life was determined entirely by their racial identity.

          1. What came first the chicken or the egg?

            1. According to my evolutionary biology professor, the egg. That said, what does your point have to do with the fact that white males practiced (and still do when they can) identity politics for centuries? Are you disputing that central point, or just claiming that because someone who wasn’t a white male behaved badly, that that lets white males off the hook?

              1. “lets white males off the hook”

                Which white males? The ones who did wrong? Or are “white males” collectively guilty?

                Of course the white males who *didn’t* engage in slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, etc. should be let off the hook. Why should they be *on* the hook in the first place, except under some theory of collective guilt?

                How does one apply collective guilt to “white males” without also applying it to other races and sexes?

                1. Under the same theory that innocent shareholders in a corporation convicted of wrongdoing see their earnings drop and may even lose their investment. They’re not being punished; they’re just paying the collateral consequence.

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