To Poland, to Auschwitz, for the International March of the Living

I will be in Poland later this week.

On Thursday, I will participate in the International March of the Living. It is a Holocaust education and commemoration program that, each year, organizes and assembles over 10,000 people in Poland. They include Holocaust survivors, younger adults, and many students. Many are Jews and many are non-Jews. The International March of the Living occurs at Auschwitz on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Marchers cover about two kilometers, walking from Auschwitz I, site of the original Nazi prison barracks and murder camp during World War II, to the much larger Auschwitz II (Birkenau) Nazi slave labor prison camp and extermination site. The March concludes in Birkenau with a ceremony of remembrance.

On Friday, I will attend and speak at a related conference, primarily for U.S. lawyers and judges, that will be held in Krakow.

I have seen Auschwitz on two previous trips—one to participate in the International March of the Living in 2016. I know from those experiences, including sights and conversations, that it all is something that I struggle, as every person does or should, to comprehend. I also know that Auschwitz and other Nazi-related sites are things that students and others ask me, often, to describe.

My words can’t meet this challenge. But I do plan this week to blog some things here, and also to tweet (@JohnQBarrett). If this is of interest, look for my writing in those places.

Jackson List: Firing a Cabinet Officer Face-to-Face (1945)

In early 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Robert H. Jackson, then the Solicitor General of the United States, to serve as U.S. Attorney General, a member of the President’s Cabinet.  President Roosevelt then appointed former U.S. circuit court judge Francis Biddle to succeed Jackson as Solicitor General.

Eighteen months later, Roosevelt appointed Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  At that time, the President, at Jackson’s urging, promoted Biddle to succeed Jackson as Attorney General.

Attorney General Biddle served in Roosevelt’s Cabinet for the next four years—for all of the remainder of his presidency, and for nearly the entire period of U.S. involvement in World War II.

On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died suddenly.  Harry S. Truman became the 33rd president of the U.S.  Within two weeks, the new president recruited Justice Jackson to serve as U.S. chief of counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals—the appointment that became Jackson’s position as U.S. chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.

President Truman also decided to appoint his own Cabinet officers.  In the case of Attorney General Biddle, however, Truman chose not to communicate his wishes directly.  The President had his press secretary, Stephen Early, telephone Biddle on May 16, 1945, to request his resignation.

Attorney General Biddle did not appreciate the President’s effort to fire him by emissary.  So after speaking to Early, Biddle called the White House and requested a meeting with President Truman.

They met later that morning.  As the story soon emerged in the press, Biddle told Truman that he had, immediately after Roosevelt’s death, submitted his letter of resignation for the President’s acceptance if that was his preference.  Biddle added that he quite appreciated that a president would want to have his own friends, people with whom the president was comfortable—and Biddle had reason to think that this was not Truman’s view of him—in his Cabinet.

“But,” Biddle added, “the relation between the President and his Cabinet is such that if you want to accept my resignation, it seems to me that you should tell me so yourself, not detail it to a secretary.”

President Truman, reportedly embarrassed, agreed.  He told Biddle, to his face, that he was accepting his resignation.

According to Biddle’s later memoir, the President “looked relieved; and I got up, walked over to him, and touched his shoulder.  ‘You see,’ I said, ‘it’s not so hard.’”

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Remembering A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. (1928-1998)

Today, February 25, 2018, marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of the late A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., a lawyer who became a leading United States judge and was, in all he did in a life of great achievements, an African-American pioneer who opened doors for many.  And he was “my” Judge.  So I’m glad to have this occasion to share memories of him.

Leon, born in Trenton, New Jersey, was the only child of a father who worked as a laborer and mother who worked as a domestic.  His parents worked multiple jobs, as he also did, to get him an excellent education.  He soared academically at Antioch College and Yale Law School.

In the early 1950s, Leon Higginbotham began his legal career in Philadelphia.  Despite strong credentials, he found that the doors of each “downtown” (which meant white) law firm were closed to him.  Undaunted, he joined the leading “black” law firm and became a very successful litigator.  He also became counsel to the NAACP and was active in Democratic politics.

In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Higginbotham to serve on the Federal Trade Commission.  Although racist opposition by southern Senators temporarily thwarted the President’s 1963 effort to appoint Higginbotham to the federal bench, President Johnson was successful in 1964 following Kennedy’s death.

Judge Higginbotham served as a U.S District Court Judge from 1964 until 1977.  President Carter then appointed Higginbotham to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he served until he retired from judging in 1993.

On the bench, Judge Higginbotham presided over trials and decided appeals that involved almost every issue, neighborhood, employer, law, program, and government office in the Third Circuit (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Virgin Islands).  He also, through hard work, eloquent words, and a notable commitment to justice, became a national legal figure.  Perhaps only the fact that no Democratic President had the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court Justice during most of Higginbotham’s judicial career kept him from joining the highest bench.

But Judge Higginbotham’s judicial work only begins to tell the story of who he was and what he did with his time and talents.  He was a self-taught historian whose books and articles described the tragic, malevolent roles that law and lawyers played in erecting and perpetuating the American institutions of slavery and racial discrimination.

Judge Higginbotham was an energetic teacher and lecturer to generations of students at the University of Pennsylvania and other colleges and law schools throughout the country.  (A friend reminded me recently that at Penn Law School, Judge Higginbotham’s portrait hangs on one side of an atrium with a curving staircase on each side; a student tradition is to walk only up the Higginbotham side, and to descend the other, so as never to turn one’s back on “the Judge.”)

Judge Higginbotham, as professor, taught difficult material brilliantly.  He also showed his students, by his own profound example, that there is always more to study and understand about the most fundamental topics of history, morality and law.

Judge Higginbotham also became employer, adviser and hands-on mentor to a thousand and more persons.  Each mattered enormously to him—he saw these friends and students as a core part of his work.  Higginbotham gave people opportunities, boosting them up so that they could make the most of these chances and then savoring their successes as if he were merely a proud spectator.

The Higginbotham life lesson is that he truly lived the core values—equality, opportunity, integration, social justice, harmony—that defined his judging, writing and teaching. I think these were parts of his credo:  Learn about real issues.  Expend enormous energy on work that matters most.  First see, and then help, the people who are excluded from the common dreams and opportunities of our society.  And always, always teach.

I had the great fortune, as a young lawyer, to work as one of Judge Higginbotham’s law clerks for almost two years.  Ever since, and every day, I think of him.  I see—it is my habit to look at—his photos on my office wall.  And as a teacher, I try to continue a small part of his enormous work and legacy, and to make him proud.

Jackson List: Birthday Reading (1938)

Today marks the 126th anniversary of Robert Houghwout Jackson’s 1892 birth, in his family’s farmhouse in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.

It seems that on many a February 13, Robert Jackson did nothing special, and nothing special happened to him.

Jackson did have an unusual experience on this date in 1938—eighty years ago today.  He then was Assistant Attorney General of the United States, heading the Antitrust Division.  He also had been nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the Solicitor General of the United States, succeeding Stanley Reed who had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearing had begun in late January, and on February 13th he was in the midst of testifying, ultimately over three days, in a hearing that was thorough, very substantive, and sometimes contentious.  (To boil it down, some Senators were concerned that Jackson was a radical threat to American constitutional law and capitalist freedom and, related, that he was rising to become a leading force in the Democratic Party and, perhaps, presidential material in 1940, when it was expected that F.D.R. would not seek a third term.)  Jackson also had, in the previous week, been part of arguing before the Supreme Court in defense of the constitutionality of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a major New Deal law.

On Sunday, February 13, 1938, his 46th birthday, Robert Jackson was the subject of a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile article, “Jackson Sets Forth His Political Philosophy.”  The article is online here, readable in full text by Times subscribers (but, alas, behind a paywall for non-subscribers).

The writer, Felix J. Belair, Jr., was The Times’s chief White House correspondent.  Belair seems to have interviewed Jackson for the article—it contains extensive quotations from him, plus two photographs.

I regard the article as strong personal profile journalism.  It is distinctly pro-Jackson, published at a moment when he was a well-publicized, controversial nominee in the middle of a Senate confirmation battle.  It also is an article that contains some of what we call political spin, and some dubious stories.  The article reports:

  • Jackson has no law degree;
  • He has many friends but few intimates;
  • He once made Justice James C. McReynolds, not generally a jovial figure on the Supreme Court bench, laugh during an oral argument;
  • Jackson defends FDR as working to make the private enterprise system work;
  • Jackson believes that people will not accept waves of unemployment; they must be fed or they will turn to a new political system;
  • His 1934-35 work at the Treasury Department, including his study of wealth concentration, was a basis for the 1935 tax reform law;
  • He is not opposed to productive bigness in companies, just to holding companies that are put together for the purpose of speculating in corporate securities;
  • He believes the U.S. needs a high wage industrial economy;
  • He thinks about the future—one quotation looks ahead to “1960” (when Jackson would have turned 68, but which he did not live to see—he died in 1954);
  • He testified in defense of FDR’s 1937 “Court-packing” proposal;
  • His record in major constitutional arguments before the Supreme Court is 4-4;
  • He is a father, a horseman, and a businessman;
  • He attended Albany Law School but did not receive a degree.  (This is true, but Belair did not report that this was only because the school regarded Jackson, age 20 when he completed all requirements, as too young to receive a degree.  The article also incorrectly states that Jackson did two years of law school course work in one year—a myth that follows him still.  And the article does not mention that in addition to attending Albany Law School, Jackson trained for the bar by apprenticing for two years in a law office.);
  • Jackson’s law practice started in (conservative) Jamestown, New York, where he defended radicals charged with crimes growing out of a street railway strike and, surprisingly, won;
  • He subsequently became counsel to businesses (including in Buffalo, New York, and elsewhere, which Belair did not mention);
  • Jackson loves horses:  they were central to his farm boyhood in Spring Creek; he owns a horse farm in Jamestown; he lives with his wife Irene, daughter Mary, and horses on a large property in Maryland;
  • He works late and rides early, often with Mary, sometimes trying out on her, or on his horse (more amenable?), speeches that he is preparing;
  • He and Irene also have a son, William (then a Yale College freshman).  (Belair reported that Jackson hoped Bill would become a lawyer, but in fact, at least by the time Bill was finishing college, Jackson was open to Bill pursuing whatever career path he wished—and he did then go to law school and became a very accomplished lawyer.);
  • Jackson likes to talk about his ancestors, including his great-grandfather Elijah Jackson, the first white settler of Spring Creek;
  • His middle name, Houghwout, is a family name, from ancestors who were early Dutch settlers New Amsterdam;
  • Jackson’s family politics:  Andrew Jackson Democrats;
  • He never sought political office.  (That is largely true, unless one counts, unreported here, his election in young adulthood to country political organization office.);
  • He was appointed corporation counsel in Jamestown by a Republican mayor (which is true—Mayor Sam Carlson was a smart, liberal Republican);
  • Jackson came to Washington at the personal request of FDR.  (This might be an exaggeration of Roosevelt’s personal role in Jackson’s recruitment to the New Deal.);
  • Jackson offers blunt criticism of the bar (the legal profession), including for its conservatism and opposition to government reform;
  • He has critics and enemies but also many friends and admirers;
  • He has been mentioned in the past for numerous offices, including the Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate, and the Governorship of New York;
  • He has no idea what future will bring—maybe just a return to practicing law in Jamestown.

I assume that Jackson, on that Sunday morning, got a copy of The Times and read Belair’s profile piece.  I bet that Jackson mostly liked it.  I bet more that he didn’t spend a lot of time on it, and that if the weather was good enough he spent more time that day on horseback.

For additional Jackson Birthday reading, here are some previous Jackson Birthday-related posts:

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Happy Holidays!

Thank you all, Jackson List newcomers this year and longtime readers.  I truly appreciate your interest, your “forwards,” your recruitments of new subscribers, and your comments.

For your reading in this season, here are links to some previous holiday season posts:

  • “Heartfelt Words, Good Will & Wishes True (1913) (click here)
  • “Christmas Cards from Nuremberg (November 1945)” (click here)
  • “Lighting the First Candle:  Holocaust Film and Chanukah at Nuremberg, 1945” (click here)
  • “Holiday Note, Chief to Staff (December 1945)” (click here)
  • “Jackson in the Holiday Season” (click here)
  • “Christmas Celebration, Nuremberg, 1945” (click here)
  • “Jackson on Holiday in Athens, December 22, 1945” (click here)
  • “Supreme Court at Christmastime (1951)” (click here)

Thank you again for your interest, and very best wishes for the holidays and 2018.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Time for a New U.S. Secretary of State (1944)

In late November 1944, United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull, nearly twelve years in office, tendered his resignation to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Secretary Hull, age 73, did not wish to leave office before World War II was won, but the reality of his recurring, worsening problems with pulmonary sarcoidosis and strong advice from his doctors dictated his decision.

On Sunday, November 26, President Roosevelt visited Secretary Hull at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month, for a long conversation.

The following day, the President held a news conference to announce Hull’s resignation.  The White House then released the texts of the letters of resignation and reluctant acceptance that Hull and the President had exchanged.

Later that day, the President nominated the Under Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., age 44, who had been Acting Secretary in Hull’s absence, to succeed him.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously and favorably reported Stettinius’s nomination to the full Senate on November 29.

The next day, the Senate confirmed Stettinius by roll call vote, 67 to 1.  Notified of his confirmation, Stettinius travelled promptly to Bethesda to pay his respects to Secretary Hull.

Secretary Stettinius signed his commission and took his oath of office on Friday, December 1, 1944.  The ceremony occurred in the Office of the Secretary of State, in the State, War, and Navy Building (today the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) next to the White House.

At Stettinius’s request, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson administered the oath.

At the conclusion of the oath, after Stettinius said “I do,” Jackson asked “So help you God?,” prompting Stettinius to respond “So help me God.”

Secretary Hull was of course unable to attend the ceremony.  It was attended by other senior officials, including General George C. Marshall, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and Senator Harry F. Byrd (D.-VA).  Stettinius’s wife and children attended, as did Jackson’s wife Irene.

The ceremony was well-lit and photographed by still and newsreel photographers.  For newsreel film of the occasion, including Justice Jackson administering the oath and then he and Secretary Stettinius signing the commission, click here:

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675037150_Edward-R-Stettinius_Secretory-of-States_swear-in_Justice-Jackson_General-George-C-Marshall

*          *          *

Coincidentally, December 1, 1944, was also the date on which Alfred A. Knopf published Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck’s book War Criminals: Their Prosecution & Punishment (jacket price $3.00).

In the months ahead, Secretary Stettinius and Justice Jackson each worked on the challenges of prosecuting war criminals.  Indeed, Professor Glueck became one of Jackson’s consultants in his work as U.S. chief prosecutor at Nuremberg of Nazi war criminals.

The enormity of that undertaking might have been present, at least elliptically, when Stettinius stated to the cameras on December 1, 1944, that building world peace following the war would “need active participation and support of all….”

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

 

Meeting Your Nazi Neighbor

Yesterday’s New York Times included, prominently, this quite odd and disturbing, and now quite controversial, article on Tony Hovater.  He is a 27-year-old white male U.S. citizen who resides, with his wife, near Dayton, OH.  He longs for centralized power that he calls “fascism.”  He identifies himself as a “white nationalist.”  He studies, admires, and minimizes the evil of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.  He, Mr. Hovater, is a disgusting bigot, an anti-Semite.  I’m sparing in name-calling, but it seems accurate to call him an American Nazi.

After reading and then rereading the article, and then reading some of the many good and varied comments on it, I’m glad that it exists.  It correctly appalls many, while educating them on who this man is, as an individual and as a type—inside vote totals and protest mobs are individuals, and it’s good to see one so closely.  (Here, reported in The Atlantic, is a long account of another, Andrew Anglin, who is much more horrifying because of the violence he threatens.)  And it’s good—well, not “good,” of course, but informative—to read and reflect on how Mr. Hovater feels empowered by President Trump.  The President of course (I wish), plus anyone who supports him even slightly, should read about Mr. Hovater and think more about the dangers of lighting fuses.

If Mr. Hovater worked for me, I’d probably fire him.

If he lived near me, I’d be a very concerned neighbor—I’d watch for bad behavior and, seeing anything, err on the side of calling the cops.  They serve the law and the general public—they’re on our side.

I hope that Mr. Hovater’s wife wakes up—I hope that she stays safe, gets interested in politics, gets smarter, and leaves him.

And I hope that Mr. Hovater gets interested to get smarter.  He needs teaching.  Some of it can come right from some of the books on Nazism and World War II that he owns and permitted the NYT  to photograph.  If he’s game to start studying and thinking critically and thus, objectively, better, I’d take him on as a student.  I hope that other teachers would too.  But I’d urge anyone to do this only very carefully—Hovater would have to be game, which seems very unlikely, and he would have to get to work and not just spout what the NYT story reports that he thinks currently.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth any serious teacher’s time.

The odds are that he will continue as he is, thinking and reading and speaking evil ideas.

That leaves me sad, and alarmed, and glad to live in a country with the constitutional fiber to protect all expression, even his.

Jackson List: A Doctor’s Thanksgiving Wisdom (1953)

Robert H. Jackson lived actively, vigorously, despite knowing of his family’s history of heart disease.  His father, Will Jackson, died in 1915 at age 52, apparently of heart trouble.  Other members of the Jackson clan had heart problems too.  One of his sisters, having “had three quite bad spells with [her] heart” when she was only 34, referred with some fatalism to the possibility of having “a Jackson heart.”  Robert Jackson might have had his first heart attack as early as January 1941, when he was 48 years old.  His medical care attended to his heart from at least then until the end of his life (1954).

In 1934, when Robert Jackson was forty-one years old, he was appointed to national office for the first time and moved to Washington, D.C.  But his extended family and many of his closest friends remained in and around his adult hometown, Jamestown, New York.  They were the people who, and western New York State was the land and region that, Jackson loved—if you’ll excuse a line, he left his heart…  So he returned there regularly to visit, at least a few times every year.

And Jackson kept his Jamestown doctor.  Dr. Samuel Hurwitz, M.D., was a general practitioner with skills in cardiology.  Jackson liked and trusted Dr. Hurwitz and saw him each year.  He was attentive to Jackson, prescribing various medicines (bellergal; aminophyllin; nitroglycerin) that Jackson took as needed.  They corresponded during periods between Jackson’s Jamestown visits.

In November 1953, Jackson sent word to Dr. Hurwitz, probably by letter, that he needed prescription refills.  Hurwitz wrote back, enclosing signed prescriptions, noting “I have omitted the [patient] name and date, which you can put in when ready to fill the Rx’s.”

Dr. Hurwitz also noted his awareness of Jackson’s extrajudicial endeavors, which then included his well-publicized November 2, 1953, keynote speech at the dedication of the American Bar Center at the University of Chicago.  “The Jamestown papers follow and report your travels,” Dr. Hurwitz wrote.  “All of us applaud your philosophy.”

Dr. Hurwitz closed his November 1953 note to Justice Jackson, written on Thanksgiving Day, with a modest, I think admirable, nod to the role of fortune, and perhaps the role of higher power, in every life:

On this day anyone should be thankful for all the good he has, which are none of his doing.

I hope that your life is filled with good, as mine is—Happy Thanksgiving.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Biographer Goggles

Janet Maslin, in her New York Times review last week of Ron Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses S. Grant, praises Chernow for “manag[ing] to put on Grant goggles and deal primarily with this one soldier’s role in the military, this one leader’s role in the Civil War.”

I find this helpful.  Without such goggles—or, pick another metaphor, without binoculars that can be trained on one figure, or without a magnifying glass that can enlarge details of a key face in a crowd—biographical writing can too easily become general history.  That context is necessary, of course.  But not too much—the biographer’s point is to see, to point to, to communicate, the life of a person.

Back to my goggles.

President Reagan Against Political Gerrymandering

I received yesterday the new memoir by Harold Burson, The Business of Persuasion.  Now in his tenth decade, Harold is a giant in the field of public relations, co-founder of the global firm Burson-Marsteller, formerly an Armed Forces Radio Network reporter during 1945-46 at the international Nuremberg trial of the principal Nazi war criminals, a truly wise man, and, I’m very lucky to say, my friend.

I have only begun to read the book. So far it’s smooth and smart, filled with great stories and clear, profound life-lessons.  Harold calls these his “Takeaways,” and he very helpfully itemizes these keys to success at the end of each chapter.

When I finish reading Harold’s book—which will be soon, because, as he writes in a first chapter Takeway, daily reading of good material is both a pleasure and wise—I plan to write more about it.

I’m writing now about a Chapter One nugget because it’s striking and timely.

As Harold Burson recounts, he was an important adviser and friend to President Ronald Reagan, especially in his post-presidency years.

October 10, 1984:  Hugh Downs, Harold Burson, Jack Anderson, and President Reagan, at the White House launch of the Young Astronauts program

In 1989, Harold advised President Reagan, newly-retired and beginning to give talks to various audiences, to include in his speeches some bipartisan messages.

Reagan liked the advice.  He then described two issues that had concerned him for a long time.

One was the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Since the 1950s, it has limited presidents to two terms.  Reagan, having been there, thought it was terrible that the Constitution makes every reelected president a lame duck.  He preferred to trust the possibility of third terms to presidents’ sound personal decision making, and also to voters.  He noted that he was glad that President Franklin Roosevelt had been able to run for a third term in 1940.  (Reagan voted for him then, as he had in 1932 and 1936 and would again in 1944—F.D.R. was one of Reagan’s great heroes.)

The second concern that President Reagan voiced to Harold Burson was about the politicized methods that State legislative majorities use to draw the boundaries of Congressional districts.  Reagan said, in substance—Burson is careful to note that he puts in quotation marks the substance, reconstructed from documents and memory, of what a person said, not his verbatim words—that

“[r]ather than leaving it to the politics of whichever party controls a state’s legislature, each state should have an independent nonpartisan commission whose sole responsibility is redistricting based on census results.”  [Reagan] condemned gerrymandering; there should be geographic integrity in setting the boundaries of congressional districts. (p. 22)

Harold Burson agreed with the logic of President Reagan’s bipartisan—which is to say, really, his nonpartisan—position, and obviously I do too.

The U.S. Supreme Court currently is deciding the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in state legislative districts.  The case, Gill v. Whitford, was argued last week, and the Court’s decision is expected in coming months.  For information on the case, including briefs and a link to oral argument audio, visit this SCOTUSblog page:

Gill v. Whitford

The issue that concerned President Reagan, partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, is formally different from Gill v. Whitford’s focus on partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts.  But the issues raise substantively the same question—the district line-drawers are one and the same state legislators, holding majority power, legislating boundaries so as to maximize their party’s advantage beyond its candidates’ abilities to win votes at the polls.

As the Supreme Court considers Gill v. Whitford, I hope that it will heed President Reagan’s wisdom—if it’s not too late to “file” another “amicus brief” in the case, maybe this can count as his.

I’m grateful to Harold Burson for bringing it to our attention.

And you should buy and read his book!