Feb 22, 2009
The Boston Globe’s Peter S. Canellos has a laudatory piece on the Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan the elder (his son also sat on the Supreme Court) in In 1800s, a rights icon on the bench. The elder Harlan is a hero to me as well, for most of the reasons Canellos cites but also for holding a special place in my heart as an evening student. As I’ve posted previously, for over 20 years Justice Harlan would leave his post at the Supreme Court around 7pm and walk over with another Justice to Columbian University in Washington, D.C. where he taught constitutional Law, domestic relations, commercial law, evidence, torts, and property to the assembled group of law students, most of whom worked as government clerks during the day.
My sense is that the same egalitarian spirit that prompted his famous Plessy dissent, bestowed in Harlan the instinct that there should be no barrier to a legal education for those who possessed the requisite desire, fortitude and potential and that a Supreme Court Justice’s evening was not poorly spent in helping to make that possible.
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