Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Pressure Builds To Remove John Marshall From Cleveland State Law School's Name

Following up on my previous post, Cleveland State Law School Seeks Comments On Removing Chief Justice John Marshall From Its Name:

Cleveland Law Logo (2021), Pressure Building to Change Name of CSU’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Because Namesake Owned Slaves:

Pressure is mounting to change the name of Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law because of its namesake’s association with slavery. ...

[A] group of Cleveland-Marshall law students is pressing the Board of Trustees into action, as they become increasingly frustrated by what they see as the university dragging its feet on an obvious decision. At the same time, City Councilman Kevin Conwell on Monday introduced legislation urging for the name change. ...

A year and a half ago, the college and Dean Lee Fisher assembled a committee to weigh the pros and cons of a name change. The committee has since held six forums and issued a 46-page “framing document.” A survey seeking students’ opinions is underway. ...

Fisher, in a statement to, said a potential renaming is a “consequential decision that requires careful study, and a thoughtful, inclusive process that considers different viewpoints” from the law school and CSU community.

That process, Fisher said, “has modeled what we teach our law students – to listen and learn and to withhold judgment until we have had a chance to evaluate what we have heard.”

The student group, Students Against Marshall, wants the board to remove the name ahead of spring commencement, so another class of law students won’t have diplomas bearing the name of a person who bought and sold human beings, said group member Emily Forsee.

Adam M. Carrington (Hillsdale College), Stripping John Marshall’s Name from Law Schools Is a Mistake:

Our age of civic iconoclasm continues apace. In obedience to our misguided, new pieties, Cleveland’s Marshall School of Law will now consider stripping its namesake: Chief Justice John Marshall. This comes after the UIC John Marshall Law School decided to change its name to the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law last year. This indiscriminate purge makes no distinction between America’s great, even if flawed, Founders and those who were true purveyors of evil and oppression.

Marshall stands among the great forgers of America in general and of the U.S. Supreme Court in particular. He voted to support the Constitution at the crucial Virginia ratifying convention. He served important duties overseas in France. Above all, he served as the most consequential chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in American history. ...

The impetus for removing Marshall’s name stems from accusations that he was a racist as well as a slave-owner himself. Yet this accusation fail to fully account for Marshall’s life and work. ...

The Founders, Marshall included, proclaimed a principle above and beyond their own deeds. They did so knowing the power of words and the logical working of justice declared to reform evil deeds. True to this knowledge, arguments such as Marshall’s proved much greater than his personal actions. They did so for reasons Marshall himself seemed to know — they accorded with truth and good.

A better political piety would neither ignore Marshall’s slave history nor strip a man of such virtuous accomplishment from the law schools whose content so indelibly reflects his greatest work. Instead, it would seek to show in him the eventual triumph of the principle of equality over the practice of human bondage. And it would find humility in asking where else we still suffer the same discordance today.

Barrick Stees (Cleveland Institute of Music), Another Reason Why CSU Should Rename Its Law School:

The “doctrine of discovery” is enshrined in U.S. law thanks to John Marshall, and offers another reason why Cleveland State University should rename Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

The doctrine’s U.S. legal antecedents are described by the Upstander Project on Indigenous land thusly: “In an 1823 Supreme Court case, Johnson v. McIntosh, the Doctrine of Discovery became part of U.S. federal law and was used to dispossess Native peoples of their land. In a unanimous decision, Chief Justice John Marshall writes, ‘that the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands’....”

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