The Volokh Conspiracy

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Rutgers University Cancels Justice Joseph Bradley

Bradley wrote the majority opinion in The Civil Rights Cases and an ignominious concurrence in Bradwell v. Illinois.


Justice Joseph Bradley graduated from Rutgers University in 1836. In 1971, Rutger University named a building in Newark after Justice Bradley. No longer. The University has officially renamed the building. Tap Into Newark has this report:

The Rutgers University Board of Governors during a Wednesday meeting passed a resolution which approved the removal of Bradley's name from the building at 110 Warren St. A main reason for the name change, Rutgers officials said, stemmed from a court opinion Bradley wrote in 1883 that overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875. . . .

"The committee recommended removal of the name after intensive study of the judicial record of the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Joseph P. Bradley, for whom Bradley Hall was named," said Peter Englot, a senior vice chancellor for public affairs and chief of staff at Rutgers–Newark. "The study revealed that he was more than just 'a person of his time.' Rather, at a time when the forces favoring and opposing Reconstruction were closely balanced following the Civil War, Bradley instead chose to use his position to tip that balance toward undoing Reconstruction, regressing on civil rights, and opening a new era of oppression and terror."

The decision to remove the name, Englot said, came from recommendations submitted by a committee of Rutgers-Newark faculty, students, and staff appointed by Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor as part of the school's pursuit of its strategic plan that centers on strengthening inclusivity on campus.

The Civil Rights Cases is still good law. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the state-action doctrine in United States v. Morrison. Justice Bradley is also well known for his ignominious concurrence in Bradwell v. Illinois. He wrote:

The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based upon exceptional cases.

I doubt any 19th century Justices is safe from cancellation. The 20th century Justices will be on the chopping block soon enough.