Paul L. Caron

Monday, December 27, 2021

Cleveland State Law School Seeks Comments On Removing Chief Justice John Marshall From Its Name

Following up on my previous posts (links below):

Cleveland Law Logo (2021) 3Dear Member of the CSU Cleveland-Marshall community,
I am writing to strongly encourage you to provide feedback on the very important issue of whether our Law School should continue to be named after Chief Justice John Marshall, who, in addition to being the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was also a slaveholder. Your opinion is very important to us.

Please complete the short Feedback Form at the below link by Monday, January 17, 2022:
Law School Name Feedback Form

While the ultimate authority for deciding whether to change our name rests at the University level, our Law School has a responsibility to provide our University partners with as much relevant information as possible so that an informed decision can be made. The results of the Feedback Form from all of our various stakeholders will be one very important piece of the information we will provide to the University.

Below is a link to the Law School Name Framing Document. This document outlines in much greater detail the controversy surrounding Chief Justice John Marshall’s name and provides arguments both for and against changing the name of our Law School. It should be noted that the primary issue before us now is whether to retain or remove the name of John Marshall from our Law School. We have, however, included a brief section in the Framing Document devoted to some possible alternative names simply for context and discussion.
Law School Name Framing Document

In the summer of 2020, we received a petition urging CSU Cleveland-Marshall and UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago to remove any reference to Chief Justice John Marshall in our law schools’ names because of Chief Justice Marshall’s association with slavery. I have publicly noted that we must take the petition to change the name of our Law School and the spirit in which it was written very seriously. I immediately formed a Law School Name Committee (“Committee”) consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to seek wide input, develop findings and options, and make a recommendation, or alternative recommendations, for consideration about whether “Marshall,” named after Chief Justice John Marshall, should be removed from our Law School’s name.

The Committee hosted three public virtual forums during the 2021 spring semester to provide context to the issue of whether we should continue to name our Law School after Chief Justice Marshall. These forums were not intended to directly deal with the question of whether we should change our name or to advocate for any particular viewpoint. Rather, the purpose was to better understand how historians view institutional name changes and how other institutions have approached similar issues. The forums intentionally presented differing views and opinions on this subject. We also hosted three community town halls during the 2021 fall semester to allow our students, staff, faculty, and many alumni to express their views. The links to the forums and town halls are on the Law School Name Website. The Committee also created a Law School Name Resource Guide.

Removing “Marshall” from our Law School’s name would be a very consequential decision by the Law School and Cleveland State University that requires careful study and thoughtful consideration of different viewpoints. The legacy of Chief Justice John Marshall is complex and we have drawn on scholarly expertise to explore and examine that legacy as a part of our process.

In considering a name change, we have and will continue to incorporate wide input and will be guided by our proud history, our guiding values, our Law School’s mission Learn Law, Live Justice, and the values and mission of Cleveland State University. Decisions about naming and renaming must be made with due regard for our educational mission and core values, including our commitments to teaching, quality research, truth-seeking, and inclusivity.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read the Framing Document and to provide your input and feedback.

My best,
Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law |Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink