Tuesday, January 2, 2007

End of an Era in Supreme Court History Research

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times reported over the weekend that the final volume of the Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800 has been completed, bringing to an end thirty years of work by the Documentary History Project of the Supreme Court Historical Society, and its editor, Maeva Marcus. The volumes have been published by Columbia University Press, and the new book will be out in February.

According to the story,

The final volume collects background material on the cases that came before the court from 1798 through 1800, including petitions, lawyers’ and justices’ notes, accounts of arguments (which lasted for days), drafts of opinions, correspondence and newspaper articles.

In addition to two earlier volumes of case material, other volumes in the series cover the court’s first appointments and initial proceedings, the organization of the federal judiciary, and the activities of the justices as they rode circuit, traveling on horse or by carriage to other states to preside over trials in the Federal Circuit Courts.

The earlier volumes have been cited by judges throughout the federal court system. Justice David H. Souter, who cited “Suits Against States,” the fifth volume, in opinions on the losing side of two federalism cases, is one of the project’s
most enthusiastic boosters.

“It’s not just a collection of documents,” Justice Souter said in an interview this month. “It gives us a broader contextual basis for understanding those early cases.”

Lynne Curry's review of the penultimate volume for H-Law had this to say:

The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, is of course a key resource for scholarship on the Court as well as the history of the early republic, and libraries serving scholars in these fields will find this series indispensable. In addition, instructors of U.S. legal and constitutional history will no doubt find value in dispatching students to the library to peruse these books that so graphically demonstrate the process of history.

The Greenhouse/NYT story continued:

Ms. Marcus, who is president-elect of the American Society for Legal History, will next turn her attention to the Institute for Constitutional Studies, a program she started in 1999. It is now housed at George Washington University’s law school and counts Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg among its academic advisers.

Among its activities, the institute brings young scholars to Washington for seminars on constitutional history. In other words, it may give a new generation the equipment and desire to uncover some of the mysteries that, even after 30 years, still remain.

No comments: