Common Threads of Justice: The Lemmon Slave Case Videocast

We recently completed a very special videocast The Evolution of Slavery, Abolition in NY, and the NY Courts: The Lemmon Slave Case with Dennis E. Glazer and Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt. Affirmed by the Court of Appeals in 1860, the Lemmon Slave Case illustrates how NYS law was ahead of federal in finding that slaves brought into the State were not property. This went against the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, decided three years earlier.

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George Wickersham: “The Scourge of Wall Street”

This blog article was written by John Oller, an author and retired New York lawyer whose latest book is White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business—and the American Century (Dutton, March 2019), from which his upcoming Judicial Notice Issue 15 article, “George Wickersham: ‘The Scourge of Wall Street,’” is adapted. He may be found at Below is a preview of the article.

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In New York legal circles today, the name Wickersham is most closely associated with the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, the oldest in New York City. The actual man behind the name, George Wickersham, is less well known to current generations. Yet from roughly 1900 to his death in 1936, George Wickersham was one of the most renowned and influential lawyers of his time. He began his career creating and defending large corporations, then switched sides, as US attorney general under William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1913, to become known as “the scourge of Wall Street” for his aggressive prosecution of antitrust cases.

Early Life and Career

Born in Pittsburgh in 1858, Wickersham started out at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania intending to become civil engineer, but a literature professor who spotted in Wickersham a taste for letters persuaded him to “give up the study of calculus for that of Blackstone.” He obtained his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1880 and moved to New York City in 1882 to take a clerkship with the firm of Chamberlain, Carter & Hornblower. It was a progenitor of the “white shoe” firms and lawyers who would dominate the legal world for many decades of the twentieth century.

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Common Threads of Justice: Lessons Learned from the 1918 Pandemic Webinar

On Monday, May 11th, we hosted our first webinar Lessons Learned from the 1918 Pandemic: Historical and Legal Framework of the Spanish Flu and How It Relates to Today’s Crisissponsored by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP. It featured Ernest A. Abbott, Muhammad U. Faridi, and Sandra Opdycke, and was moderated by our Chair Stephen P. Younger. The program traced how the flu spread during World War I and how the government and courts responded, exploring cases, connections, differences, and lessons learned that make an impact on the current pandemic.

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An All-Star Criminal Trial in the Gilded Age: United States v. William Fullerton (March 1870)

This blog article was written by John D. Gordan, III, and it’s a preview of his Judicial Notice Issue 15 article on United States v. William Fullerton. Mr. Gordan is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and clerked from 1969-1971 for the Hon. Inzer B. Wyatt, U.S. District Judge (S.D.N.Y.). From 1971-1976 he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and thereafter engaged in full-time private practice in New York City until 2011. He was one of the founders of the Historical Society of the New York Courts and a member of its board; several of his articles have previously been published in Judicial Notice. His most recent book is entitled This Practice Against Law — Cuban Slave Trade Cases in the Southern District of New York, 1839-1841.

Judicial Notice Issue 15 is on the way, but we ran into a slight delay and are unable to send the newest edition to your homes. Who are the four men profiled in this new issue? Find out each week as our authors preview their impressive articles.

The new issue of Judicial Notice contains an article about the trial of William Fullerton, who in 1867 sat on the New York Court of Appeals. On September 14, 1868, Fullerton was appointed by President Andrew Johnson to prosecute evaders of the 1864 federal whiskey tax in the federal court in New York. On November 23, 1868, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Samuel G. Courtney, obtained Fullerton’s indictment for alleged participation in the shakedown of a Revenue Collector in June 1868. Earlier in November, Fullerton had traveled to Washington to warn the President and the Secretary of the Treasury that Courtney was in league with the whiskey tax evaders. That warning had earlier been given by John M. Binckley, a former Acting Attorney General who was the first to be assigned responsibilities similar to Fullerton’s but who resigned after a month. Fullerton was tried and acquitted in March 1870.

Surprising as this story sounds, it nevertheless pales in comparison with the “Whiskey Ring” conspiracy centered in the Midwest, primarily St. Louis, magnified starting in 1871, with the assignment of John McDonald to St. Louis as Supervisor of Internal Revenue for the Midwest. Apparently conceived in aid of political fundraising, the “Whiskey Ring”, operated by local Internal Revenue officers in collaboration with distillers and other participants in the manufacturing process, generated substantial illicit revenues through the evasion of the whiskey tax. Some of these moneys were applied to the campaign expenses of President Ulysses S. Grant.

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Common Threads of Justice: Get to Know Hon. Peter Tom

This week, we are continuing our month-long celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month with our 2017 film Get to Know: Hon. Peter Tom. At the time of this interview, Justice Tom served as the Acting Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department.

The now-retired Justice Tom speaks of his upbringing in Hong Kong, and how his early years in the United States brought him to an interest in the law. He traces his judicial career from Housing Court Judge to Appellate Division Justice. He also discusses the importance of boxing in his life. The film comes full circle in Justice Tom’s reflections on the American dream.

We appreciate Justice Tom’s sharing his story with us.

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Common Threads of Justice: Get to Know Hon. Randall T. Eng

May signals another month-long celebration for Common Threads of Justice: Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month!

We are kicking off this new celebration with Get to Know Hon. Randall T. Eng, the first Asian-American jurist to serve as Presiding Justice in New York State and our Trustee. This interview chronicles Justice Eng’s early years to his interest in the law to his judicial career. He also reflects on discrimination and stereotypes he has faced as a Chinese-American. The interview was recorded in March 2017. At that time, Judge Eng was then Presiding Justice at the Appellate Division Second Department and the interview took place in his chambers.

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Law Day 2020: Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy

The theme for Law Day this year is Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100. It celebrates the centennial of the constitutional amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote, and recognizes the challenges to voting rights that are still present today.

The Historical Society of the New York Courts developed a similar topic for its David A. Garfinkel Essay Scholarship, with Bronx Community College students writing about You, the Voter: How Far Have We Come? Is the Journey Over? In 2020, Harold Rosario won first prize with his essay, which examines how women and African Americans earned their right to vote, and is published below.

The Path to Equality:  Women and African Americans Winning the Right to Vote

by Harold Rosario

Prof. Alana Barran, Mentoring Professor

From the time of America’s inception, the right to vote was one that was given only to a privileged few landowners.  Many different groups of people have been denied the right to vote throughout American history.  Of these groups, women and African Americans had the longest, and maybe the most important, fight for the vote.  These are groups that were essential in the establishment of the United States, from the time of colonization through the declaration of independence from Great Britain.

The first laws related to voting came during the colonial and revolutionary times when the right to vote was restricted to male property owners.  In a time when African Americans were still slaves and they themselves were considered property, landowners were mostly rich white males.  These laws also restricted women because at the time not only was it was rare for a woman to own property, they generally relied on their father or husband for financial support.  The legal and practical restrictions on voting seemed to be specifically targeting these groups, as it would take many years and a hard fight for either group to finally win their right to vote.

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Common Threads of Justice: Ladies of Legend

We close Celebrate Diversity Month in Common Threads of Justice with our first partnership with the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society, the program Ladies of Legend: The First Generation of American Women Attorneys.

Though this program was held over a decade ago, it is still relevant today, as these pioneering women inspire new generations of lawyers with every passing year. The program highlights the careers of Hon. Ruth Bader GinsburgHon. Judith S. Kaye, and many first generation women attorneys: Belva A. Lockwood, Lavinia Goodell, Catharine Waugh McCulloch, and others. Prof. Jill Norgren discusses the first generation’s practices, their political activities, and their early lives. We end this month-long celebration with these fascinating sketches of women to whom the nation’s practice of law owes so much.

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It’s John Jay Week at the Society!

This week is John Jay Week at the Historical Society of the New York Courts! We’re taking a deep dive into the first Chief Justice of New York and the United States to highlight an amazing podcast with Hon. Mark C. Dillon and Paul D. Rheingold, moderated by Trustee and Judicial Notice style editor David L. Goodwin. It premieres this week!

Justice Dillon and Rheingold both wrote for our latest issue of Judicial Notice. While circumstances prevent us from sending our journal to our members, both authors wrote previews to their articles for our blog. Read before you listen to the podcast!

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Common Threads of Justice: Asian Americans and the Law

We return this Friday to showcase another common thread of justice and continue our celebrate diversity theme for April with Asian Americans and the law. We’re profiling the program Asian Americans & the Law: New York Pioneers in the Judiciary and Judicial Notice article Asian Americans and the Law, which originated from the program and was written by Hon. Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin, who also worked to develop the program.

Asian Americans & the Law: New York Pioneers in the Judiciary featured three trailblazing judges, Hon. Dorothy Chin Brandt, Hon. Peter Tom, and Trustee Hon. Randall T. Eng. Each participant highlighted their early lives and the paths to the judiciary as well as discrimination faced by the Asian American community. A presentation preceded the panel and was recorded by written word in the Judicial Notice article. Judge Chin and Hirata Chin highlight exclusionary laws and other challenges faced by Asian Americans in the country, using four important cases to illustrate these issues.

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