Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Case For Removing John Marshall's Name From Cleveland State Law School

Following up on my previous post, Law Schools In Chicago And Cleveland Consider Removing Chief Justice John Marshall From Their Names:  Cleveland Scene op-ed:  The Case for Changing the Name of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, by Taru Taylor:

Cleveland Marshall Logo (2020)The City of Cleveland finds itself in the middle of our world reckoning over race. Ever since the death of George Floyd on May 25th, the right and wrong sides of history have come into focus. More Confederate monuments have fallen stateside, of course. But how about those images of British protesters throwing the statue of Edward Colston, a seventeenth-century slave trader, into the River Thames? ...

Paul Dolan, owner of the Cleveland Indians, just announced on Monday that: “[Indians is] a name that had its time, but this is not the time now, and certainly going forward, the name is no longer acceptable in our world.” He probably took note of the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the “Redskins.” ...

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law faces a similar reckoning. It is named for John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, (1801 – 1835). Early in his tenure he authored the majority opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803), which established judicial review. By giving the Court power to declare legislative acts and executive actions unconstitutional, he became a veritable unnamed co-author of all subsequent landmark decisions. Without Marbury, there could be no Dred Scott nor Brown. It's hard to overstate his influence.

But the Virginian slave lord owned 200 slaves and at one point auctioned off some of them to pay off his son’s debts. He heard roughly 50 cases involving slavery during his 34-year tenure as chief justice. His jurisprudence was always pro-slavery, even when stare decisis, the rule that judges should abide by decided cases and apply their rules, favored the Black litigant. Nor did public policy, insofar as it supported Black freedom, ever persuade Marshall to rule for the Negro. ...

This summer George Floyd and Breonna Taylor reminded us that government has yet to overcome its slaveholding legacy. That legacy’s judicial prime mover is championed by the name of Cleveland’s public law school. On a Zoom call two weeks ago, the dean of Cleveland-Marshall assured me that CSU’s president and board of trustees would likely vote, next year, on whether to change “John Marshall.” They should emulate the school board of Falls Church, Virginia, who just last week voted to take down the names of “Thomas Jefferson” and “George Mason” from its schools.

They voted down their native sons to get on the right side of history. Et tu, Cleveland?

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


Perhaps people who hate the history of the country—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, John Marshall, Theodore Roosevelt—would be happier living elsewhere?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Dec 18, 2020 2:52:35 AM