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9 Heroes of the Courtroom

With all of the negative press these days about some prominent and not-so- prominent attorneys, we thought it was time to put the spotlight on some folks who knew their way around the courtroom.

Oliver Wendell, “You Bring the Chips, I’ll Bring the Famous Quote” Holmes Jr. (1841 – 1935)
Notable for:
Writing The Common Law and a smorgasbord of quotes. He also wrote a dissent (in Lochner) that many lawyers believe is “the best Supreme Court opinion ever written.”
Additionally: He was a Harvard law professor, served in the Civil War, was a Supreme Court justice from 1902 to 1932 and championed judicial restraint.
Famous quote: “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”

Abraham “Face on the Five-Dollar Bill” Lincoln (1809 – 1865)
Also known as: The Illinois Rail Splitter, the Great Emancipator and Honest Abe.
Notable for: Participating in 243 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and 2 before the U.S. Supreme Court, and being the only U.S. president to have a patent (for buoying vessels).
Additionally: He’s the namesake for at least one university, law school, public high school, public elementary school, building, town, county, avenue, street, highway, highway association, alumni association, memorial association, newspaper, park, fellowship, monument, statue, mascot, store, financial services company, car, toy log set and library.
Famous quote: “Four score and seven years ago…”

Louis “Shuffle Up and New Deal” Brandeis (1856-1941)
Notable for: Defending much of the New Deal legislation.
Additionally: He was Supreme Court justice from 1916 to 1939, overcame anti-Semitism and became Holmes’s partner in dissent and a legal Robin Hood who used the law to protect the underprivileged. He also has a law school named after him.
Famous quote: “Neutrality is at times a graver sin than belligerence.”

Thurgood “More Like Thur-Awesome” Marshall (1908 – 1993)
Notable for: Helping to draft constitutions of two African countries, writing ninety-eight unreversed Supreme Court majority decisions and serving as attorney in Brown v. Board of Education.
Additionally: He was the grandson of a slave, the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, and he was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because he was black (but talk about revenge-he later sued the school for failing to admit another African American and won). He also has a law school named after him.
Famous quote: “We cannot sugarcoat the feelings in our heart of hearts.”

Sandra Day “Swing Vote” O’Connor (1930 – present)
Notable for: Being the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, nominated by Reagan in 1981. Forbes called her the sixth most powerful woman in the world in 2004, especially because, as the swing vote in many close cases, arguments were often directed toward her.
Additionally: Despite graduating near the top of her Stanford law class, her initial job offers from law firms were all secretarial. On an interesting side note, she actually dated William Rehnquist at Stanford. Ah, the power couple that could have been.
Famous quote: “I think the important thing about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”

Hugo Lafayette “Where’s My Constitution?” Black (1886 – 1971)
Notable for: Keeping the Constitution in his coat pocket.
Additionally: Hugo had seven brothers and sisters, defended minority rights (despite his brief membership in the KKK, which has always been surrounded in a bit of mystery; some believe he joined in order to understand and contain the organization’s trouble-making tendencies), served in World War I, was a senator for Alabama, had one of the longest Supreme Court tenures ever (from 1937 to 1971), has a courthouse and a fellowship named after him and has an epitaph next to his tombstone that reads, “Here Lies a Good Man.”
Famous quote: “The Court didn’t do it. The Constitution did it.”

Thomas “We Hold These Truths” Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
Notable for: Being a magistrate, county lieutenant, member of the House of Burgesses (the first legislature in America) and the Continental Congress, governor, secretary of state under President Washington, vice president after losing to John Adams, and third president after the next election.
Additionally: John F. Kennedy once said to a group of Nobel laureates, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Famous quote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Joseph “Holla! If You a Schola” Story (1779-1845)
Notable for: Almost single-handedly founding Harvard Law School. He also set the tone for U.S. legal scholarship by publishing twelve volumes of commentaries in ten years.
Additionally: Served as a Supreme Court justice from 1811 to 1845 and wrote the opinion in the Amistad case, an intriguing tale of mutiny on an African slave ship (rent the 1997 Steven Spielberg film). John Quincy Adams emerged from retirement to represent the slaves, and the case culminated in an 1841 Supreme Court decision in which Story called them “kidnapped Africans” entitled to their freedom.
Famous quote: “Strike with the mass of thought, not drops of sense.”

Benjamin “The Name’s from Portugal, but the Diploma’s from Columbia” Cardozo (1870 – 1938)
Notable for: Writing more that one hundred opinions on the Supreme Court and more than five hundred opinions for the New York Court of Appeals.
Additionally: He entered Columbia University at age 15, has a law school named after him and served as a Supreme Court justice from 1932 to 1938.
Famous Yoda-like quote: “Law never is, but is always about to be.”

Adapted from mental_floss presents Law School in a Box (Quirk Books) which is available at leading retailers and online at www.mentalfloss.com.