Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice


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Commonwealth of Virginia , and Stanton v.

Casey but also filed a separate opinion, warning that Roe was in jeopardy. He wrote dissenting opinions in notable cases such as Furman v. Georgia , Bowers v.

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Hardwick , and DeShaney v. Winnebago County. He attended the same grade school as future Chief Justice Warren E. Burger , with whom he eventually served on the Supreme Court for some sixteen years. He served in a variety of positions including private counsel, law clerk, and adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School and William Mitchell College of Law then the St. Paul College of Law. Between and , Blackmun served as resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester , Minnesota. In the late s, Blackmun's close friend Warren E. Burger , then an appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit , repeatedly encouraged Blackmun to seek a judgeship.

Judge John B. Sanborn Jr. He said that he would suggest Blackmun's name to the Eisenhower administration if Blackmun wished to succeed him. After much urging by Sanborn and Burger, Blackmun agreed to accept the nomination, duly offered by Eisenhower and members of the Justice Department. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave him a rating of "exceptionally well qualified", and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 14, , and received his commission on September 21, Over the next decade, Blackmun would author opinions for the Eighth Circuit.

His confirmation followed contentious battles over two previous, failed nominations forwarded by Nixon in —, those of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell. Nixon's original choice, Lewis F. Powell Jr. Blackmun, a lifelong Republican , was expected to adhere to a conservative interpretation of the Constitution. The Court's Chief Justice at the time, Warren Burger , a long-time friend of Blackmun's and best man at his wedding, had recommended Blackmun for the job to Nixon. The two were often referred to as the "Minnesota Twins" a reference to the baseball team, the Minnesota Twins , in turn named after the " Twin Cities " of Minneapolis and St.

Paul , Minnesota because of their common history in Minnesota and because they so often voted together. Indeed, Blackmun voted with Burger in Brennan , the Court's leading liberal, in only 13 percent. Georgia decision that invalidated all capital punishment laws then in force in the United States, and in , he voted to reinstate the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia , even the mandatory death penalty statutes, although in both instances he indicated his personal opinion of its shortcomings as a policy.

Blackmun, however, insisted his political opinions should have no bearing on the death penalty's constitutionality. That began to change, however, between and , by which time Blackmun was joining Brennan in Goode , William Kunstler embraced him and "welcom[ed] him to the company of the ' liberals and the enlightened. In , Blackmun authored the Court's opinion in Roe v.

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Wade , invalidating a Texas statute making it a felony to administer an abortion in most circumstances. The Court's judgment in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton held a less restrictive Georgia law to be unconstitutional also.


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Both decisions were based on the right to privacy announced in Griswold v. Connecticut and remain the primary basis for the constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

Roe caused an immediate uproar, and Blackmun's opinion made him a target for criticism by opponents of abortion, receiving voluminous negative mail and death threats over the case. Blackmun became a passionate advocate for abortion rights, often delivering speeches and lectures promoting Roe v.

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Wade as essential to women's equality and criticizing Roe' s critics. Defending abortion, in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Blackmun wrote:. A woman's right to make that choice freely is fundamental Blackmun filed separate opinions in 's Webster v. Reproductive Health Services and 's Planned Parenthood v. Casey , warning that Roe was in jeopardy: "I am 83 years old. I cannot remain on this Court forever, and when I do step down, the confirmation process for my successor well may focus on the issue before us today.

That, I regret, may be exactly where the choice between the two worlds will be made. Ancillary to the primary right to abortion, Blackmun extended First Amendment protection to commercial speech in Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia , a case where the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of an editor who ran an advertisement for an abortion referral service. After Roe , Blackmun began to drift away from the influence of Chief Justice Warren Burger to increasingly side with liberal Justice Brennan in finding constitutional protection for unenumerated individual rights.

For example, Blackmun wrote a dissent to the Court's opinion in 's Bowers v.

The Court's ruling in this case denied constitutional protection to homosexual sodomy. Burger's opinion in Bowers read: "To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.

From the term through the term, Blackmun voted with Brennan Blackmun's judicial philosophy increasingly seemed guided by Roe , even in areas where Roe was not apparently directly applicable. His concurring opinion in 's Michael M.

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Superior Court of Sonoma County , a case that upheld statutory rape laws that applied only to men, did not directly implicate Roe , but because the laws were justified on the basis that women would be subject to the "risk" of pregnancy, Blackmun had cause to discuss Roe further in his opinion.

Despite his stated personal "abhorrence" for the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia , he voted to uphold mandatory death penalty statutes at issue in 's Roberts v. Louisiana and Woodson v. North Carolina , even though these laws would have automatically imposed the death penalty on anyone found guilty of first-degree murder. But on February 22, , less than two months before announcing his retirement, Blackmun announced that he now saw the death penalty as always and in all circumstances unconstitutional by issuing a dissent from the Court's refusal to hear a routine death penalty case Callins v.

Collins , declaring that "[f]rom this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. As Linda Greenhouse and others have reported, Blackmun's law clerks prepared what would become the Callins dissent well in advance of the case coming before the Court; Blackmun's papers indicate that work began on the dissent in the summer of , and in a memo preserved in Blackmun's papers, the clerk writing the dissent wrote Blackmun that:.

I have tried to put myself in your shoes and write a dissent that would reflect the wisdom you have gained, and the frustration you have endured, as a result of twenty years of enforcing the death penalty on this Court. Blackmun and his clerks then sought an appropriate case to serve as a "vehicle for [the] dissent," and settled on Callins.

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In his emotional dissent in 's DeShaney v. Winnebago County , rejecting the constitutional liability of the state of Wisconsin for four-year-old Joshua DeShaney, who was beaten until brain-damaged by his abusive father, Blackmun famously opined, "Poor Joshua! Collins , where the Court refused to find a constitutional right for convicted prisoners to introduce new evidence of "actual innocence" for purposes of obtaining federal relief, Blackmun argued in a section joined by no other justice that "The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder.

In Stanton v. Stanton , a case striking down a state's definitions of adulthood males reaching it at 21, women at 18 , Blackmun wrote:. A child, male or female, is still a child No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family, and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas If a specified age of minority is required for the boy in order to assure him parental support while he attains his education and training, so, too, is it for the girl.

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Compared to other Justices on the Supreme Court, Blackmun gave his law clerks great latitude in drafting opinions, such as his opinion in Planned Parenthood v. It has also been revealed by Blackmun in a oral history with Harold Koh that his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick was written by a clerk, Pam Karlan. Blackmun said of the dissent; "[K]arlan did a lot of very effective writing, and I owe a lot to her and her ability in getting that dissent out.

She felt very strongly about it, and I think is correct in her approach to it. I think the dissent is correct. When Blackmun's papers were released at the Library of Congress , his sometimes negative notations regarding fellow Justice Clarence Thomas came to light. Blackmun Rotunda at the St. Louis federal courthouse, mentioning that Blackmun drove a blue Volkswagen Beetle and would tell fast food patrons that he was "Harry. I work for the government. Blackmun and Justice Potter Stewart shared an obsessive following of baseball.

In one oral argument on October 10, , Stewart passed Blackmun a note that read, " V. Blackmun announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in April , four months before he officially left the bench, assuming retired status on August 3, Digital Harry A. Digital Library Federation, December The Policy of Issues is weekly in V and is debit of JavaScript in creative other brothers, dynamic as physics, error, poetry and especially modular advance.

Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice

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