The Blackmun Papers
March 4, 2004 10:03 AM   Subscribe

"Dear Harry, I need to see you as soon as you have a few free moments. I want to tell you about some developments in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and at least part of what I say should come as welcome news." And with that handwritten memo from Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1992, Roe v. Wade was saved from the brink of extinction.

Five years after Harry A. Blackmun's death, the Supreme Court justice's papers have been made public. Although the LOC hasn't made images available on the Internet, the New York Times and NPR are publishing features and presentations over the next several days. They provide a fascinating view into the justices' deliberative and decisionmaking process, something that we rarely get to see.
posted by PrinceValium (9 comments total)
Here are full scripts of all the stories Nina Totenberg will be doing over the next few days on the Justice and his papers. [Via NPR and scotusblog.] Also, here are links to the Finding Aid, a kind of index to all the papers.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:11 AM on March 4, 2004

Ack, now I see the LOC has the finding aid posted as well.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:12 AM on March 4, 2004

Monju - awesome, thanks for the link to the Totenberg transcripts.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:19 AM on March 4, 2004

I can't say I always agree with the Supreme Court's decisions, but I've always had great respect for the method by which they come to them.

While the press glosses over them and we rhetorically dismiss them as being whimsical or politically knee-jerkish, the amount of effort and deliberation that they put into the decisions is tremendous, and I think they do make a genuine effort to work hard toward a "correct" decision.
posted by oissubke at 10:45 AM on March 4, 2004

Folks were lined up at the LOC this morning to get at 'em first thing. No parking in the neighborhood, special docents scattered around, employee advisories, lines at the cafeteria. I've not seen such activity here before.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2004

Once, as I was having breakfast in the Supreme Court's cafeteria, quite early in the morning, I noticed Justice Blackmun (this was in the early Nineties, before his retirement from the Court) walking past my table and sitting at a table nearby with his tray.
Now I am not the kind of person who writes fan mail or something, but (I was a Law School student then) I had always been a huge Blackmun fan. he was sitting with a couple of younger men who looked pretty friendly, too(his clerks, I guess, but they introduced themselves only by name and I never knew if they really were his clerks) so when he was done with his food I finally approached Justice Blackmun's table to -- quite shyly -- pay my respects. I quickly introduced myself, told him I was sorry to bother but I was a Law School student and I was a big fan of his work.
As I was thanking him and leaving, Justice Blackmun didn't shake my hand but instead suggested -- then insisted when I told him I didn't want to distrub him further -- I picked up my tray and join him and his companions at the table.
So we ended up talking about my studies, and his work and recent cases for a good, I don't know, 15 or 20 minutes. You know, Harry Blackmun and I, a foreigner kid who went to Law School, having a cup of coffee together and talking shop.

so, here's my -- not particulary relevant, I know -- Blackmun story.
Wonderful, wonderful man.

by the way, after his turbulent nomination process, he was the one to come up the "old number three" joke, and I really like people who don't take themselves too seriously

posted by matteo at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2004

MrMoonPie, are you lucky enough to actually work at the LOC?!?

If so, I'm so envious I could kiss you..... You're getting to live my fantasy life.
posted by anastasiav at 7:42 PM on March 4, 2004

If you're interested in this stuff, I recommend Lazarus's "Closed Chambers" -- lots of inside baseball analysis of how the Court works, without actually having to wait in line at the LOC.

Blackmun sounds like a great guy. A lot of them (e.g., Marshall; Burger; Brennan and Black, at the end) sound utterly nuts, but Blackmun always comes across as a perfectionist tortured by his conscience and his understanding of his own limitations.
posted by subgenius at 9:58 PM on March 4, 2004

[this is good] - thanks PrinceValium. And great, great personal anecdote, matteo.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:13 AM on March 5, 2004

« Older Background noise for your cellphone   |   missy aggravation, some sacred questions Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments