Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: July 21, 1824


7/21/1824: Justice Stanley Matthews's birthday.

Justice Stanley Matthews


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  1. Another posthumous birthday card to a long-ago inconsequential Justice.

    I know we’re in summer recess, but with all the posting here about the Court’s “shadow docket”, we should be hearing more about the decisions made therein. One example is Delo v. Blair, July 21, 1993, where the Court denied a stay of execution. Check out Blackmun’s dissent.

    1. A useless dissent in a routine stay denial 30 years ago. How interesting!

      1. “In this case, Blair has submitted seven affidavits tending to show that he is innocent of the crime for which he has been sentenced to death. The State does not dispute that no state court remains open to hear Blair’s claim. Because Blair’s affidavits raise factual questions that cannot be dismissed summarily, the District Court erred in denying petitioner’s claim without an evidentiary hearing.”

        That issue seems worthy to me. As it did to three Supreme Court justices (Blackman, Stevens, Souter). Perhaps not as interesting to some as a downscale residential property deed in Outer Jerkwater, Ohio, but audiences can and should vary.

        1. The quotation is from Delo v. Blair, 509 U.S. 823 (1993).

      2. As the dissent points out, the District Court denied an evidentiary hearing even though the defendant presented seven eyewitness affidavits proving the defendant was innocent. Someone truly interested in Supreme Court history would point out how the denial of a stay despite such a showing (and the Court’s approval of such a ruling) represented a marked change from the Warren era.

        In law school I remember a cartoon of a speed ramp to the electric chair and a pissed off Marshall shouting “Rehnquist!!?!”

        1. Arthur

          I must have posted my comment mere seconds after you posted yours. It’s remarkable how we picked up on the same thing at the same time.

          1. Please be careful, captcrises. We are veering dangerously close to substance.

        2. “As the dissent points out”

          If you say so, I am not going to read it.

          Because it is a dissent from a stay denial from 30 years ago by a dead justice.

          At least there is a picture of the birthday boy who wrote Yick Wo v. Hopkins. Not as an important opinion as a dissent from a stay denial, I realize.

          1. The only thing Matthews did on July 21 was get born.

            As others have noted, “Today in Supreme Court History” is a lazy piece of work. Too often, Josh just looks down the list at birth and death dates of various Justices instead of telling us about actual Court history.

            1. His birth was still more important than that silly dissent you highlight.

              Getting mad like you do over a fluff series is crazy. Just skip the series, just about everyone else does

              1. It was not silly to Walter Blair, an innocent man who got fried, along with so many others.

                “The condemned person is shaved and strapped into the chair with belts crossing his body. A skullcap-shaped electrode is placed on the scalp and forehead and a second electrode fixed to the leg. Electricity will pass through his body between the two electrodes.

                The prisoner is blindfolded and the execution team withdraws to the observation room. A warden signals the executioner to pull a handle which connects to the power supply. An electric shock of 500 to 2000 volts passes through the prisoner’s body, lasting for about thirty seconds. The current is then turned off and, once the body has cooled, doctors check to see if the heart has stopped. If not, then another jolt is applied and the process continues until the prisoner is dead.”

                Good night, Bob.

          2. Because it is a dissent from a stay denial from 30 years ago by a dead justice.

            You understand that the entire point of the series is history, right? So complaining that it was 30 years ago or that the justice is dead doesn’t even make sense.

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