Tuesday, June 07, 2016


Sorry. Very sorry.

In the post with more information about Ali, Justice "Thomas" is referred to, and for some reason I just figured that was a Supreme Court Justice from the early 1970s that I'd never heard of, instead of a mistaken reference.

Here's a clarification from Keith Ganey:
(1) It was Thurgood Marshall who recused himself, not Thomas.

(2) The case ended up 8-0 in favor of Clay, but the initial vote was 5-3 against. From Wikipedia:

"Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong provide an account of the development of the decision in their book The Brethren. According to that account, Justice Marshall had recused himself because he had been U.S. Solicitor General when the case began, and the remaining eight justices initially voted 5 to 3 to uphold Ali's conviction. However, Justice Harlan, assigned to write the majority opinion, became convinced that Ali's claim to be a conscientious objector was sincere after reading background material on Black Muslim doctrine provided by one of his law clerks. To the contrary, Justice Harlan concluded that the claim by the Justice Department had been a misrepresentation. Harlan changed his vote, tying the vote at 4 to 4. A deadlock would have resulted in Ali being jailed for draft evasion and, since no opinions are published for deadlocked decisions, he would have never known why he had lost. A compromise proposed by Justice Stewart, in which Ali's conviction would be reversed citing a technical error by the Justice Department, gradually won unanimous assent from the eight voting justices.[22]"

I genuinely like a lot of the Harlan decisions I've read, but this is a rare contribution from Stewart. Makes me think his real value may have been behind the scenes.

(3) I think their decision to unanimously reverse Clay's conviction rather than uphold it is due entirely to Clay's political stature. Politically, they did not look forward to silently convicting him. Their view of Clay determined their action and made them a better court in response.

Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant lawyer. Many people only remember his declining years as a Supreme Court Justice, but that doesn't diminish his contributions as a lawyer. He argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, one of the most important court cases of the last century, and won.

He argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and won 29 of them, which is a stunning record.

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