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Professor Abraham and the Justices

Marcia Coyle had the idea for this drawing of UVa professor Henry J. Abraham and the eight chief justices who served during his lifetime, so far (Abraham is 92).

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Posted in History, Supreme Court

From the Dustbin: SCOTUS Anthrax Scare

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When anthrax started showing up in the mail shortly after 9/11 it was detected in the Supreme Court as well. The Court kept to its schedule by moving a few blocks away to convene in the D.C. Circuit’s ceremonial courtroom.

I’d been looking for this sketch for several years thinking it had been lost, but in fact had matted and framed it for exhibit and never returned it to the files. I found last week while moving stuff to storage. It shows Solicitor General Ted Olson arguing in Adarand Constructors v. Mineta. Seated in the foreground are NYT’s Linda Greenhouse, left, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

CNN story on the Court’s move is here.

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Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court

McMahon’s Drawings of the Emmett Till Murder Trial

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The blog Today’s Inspiration this week posted a fascinating 1968 Famous Artists Magazine interview with artist-reporter Franklin McMahon who died last March. It is worth a read. McMahon was one of the greatest practitioners of visual journalism. He knew how to find a story and sell it to editors. As far as I know the only trial he covered was the 1955 trial for the murder of Emmett Till. The images posted here are from that trial.

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This is McMahon’s sketch of Till’s uncle, Mose Wright, pointing to one of the defendants in the courtroom.
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And this is the same moment serruptitiously captured from a different angle by photographer Ernest Withers.

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Posted in History

Welcome Back, Aggie

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One of the sketch artists I most admire, Aggie Whalen Kenny, was visiting the Supreme Court this week. Aggie used to sketch the Court regularly for ABC and CBS back when I was still wet behind the ears. Now if only Don Juhlin would show up!

Oh, in case you were wondering, she’s sketching the riveting arguments in Gabelli v. SEC.

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Posted in History, Supreme Court

RIP John Payton

One of the nation’s greatest civil rights attorneys NAACP Legal Defense Fund president John Payton passed away yesterday.  SC030401wide_PaytonHe is shown here arguing before the Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger, April 1, 2003.

In Memoriam

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Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court

The Warren Court

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A work in progress: recreation of two cases arising from sit-in protests at a segregated lunch counter and a restaurant in Columbia, SC in the early sixties. On the bench, left to right, are Justices Byron White, William Brennan, Tom C. Clark, Hugo Black, Chief Justice Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, John M. Harlan, Potter Stewart and Arthur Goldberg. At the lectern is Constance Baker Motley, and behind her, L-R, are Jack Greenberg, Matthew J. Perry and, peeking out the corner, Ralph S. Spritzer. The lawyer for the City of Columbia, David W. Robinson, is seated to the left of the lectern.

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Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court

The Cheese and the Worms in Bologna

These are sketches of historian Carlo Ginzburg being interviewed by artist Jorge Satorre in Bologna. Ginzburg is the author of that seminal work of microhistory, Il fromaggio e i vermi, The Cheese and The Worms. Menocchio110929_Satorre_Ginsburg

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Posted in History

From The Dustbin: Roarin’ Oren v. Snepp

Snepp780621_judge“The facts won’t make any difference” roared Judge “Roarin’ Oren” Lewis as Frank Snepp’s ACLU lawyer, Mark Lynch, attempted to make an argument. You won’t find that statement in the hearings transcript though, as it, along with many other prejudicial remarks by the judge, was expunged from the record. Snepp780620Frank Snepp, a former CIA analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was facing trial for failing to get approval from the Agency, as per an agreement he had signed, before publishing his book “Decent Interval” which criticized the U.S. Government’s helicopter evacuation of Saigon from the embassy rooftop. Snepp110520_TurnerThe driving force behind Snepp’s prosecution, which the Justice Department was reluctant to bring, was the new Director of the CIA, Admiral Stansfield Turner, who was outraged that Snepp had broken his secrecy agreement. Turner later admitted under cross-examination that he had never read the agreement signed by Snepp.

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After two days of hearings Snepp was denied a jury trial, and Judge Lewis entered a judgement in favor of the U.S., ordering Snepp to relinquish all royalties and advances from the book and enjoining him from ever speaking about anything relating to his CIA employment without prior review by the agency. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the government won roundly. Snepp110520_defense
BTW that’s a young Alan Dershowitz slumped in his chair on the left.

 

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Posted in Courtroom, History

Howard Brodie Remembered

Blackmun  Howard Brodie, one of the greatest sketch artists ever, has passed away at age 94. He was generous, gentle and honest.

I met Howard when I was trying to land a job with CBS News in Washington. He was their regular artist, had covered the Watergate trial and was currently sketching the Panama Canal Treaty debate in the Senate.  He graciously let me tag along as I tried my hand at sketching the Supreme Court.  We then went over to the Senate where I was overwhelmed by the task of sketching the chamber with all it’s senators milling about.  Howard told me that it was the hardest thing he had ever had to draw, and that gave me some comfort.


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I started freelancing for CBS, although Howard still flew in from California for the big stories.  At the CBS bureau I had access to Howard’s drawings which I studied, and I tried to copy his style.  At dinner one evening when he was in town Howard remarked that his wife had seen my sketch of congressman Dan Flood, then on trial in District Court, and  thought it was Howard’s.  I was both thrilled and embarrassed.  Howard wasn’t upset though, but continued to give me encouragement.

 

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There are many stories about Howard’s compassion; here’s one : during  the Watergate trial Howard came upon a pigeon with a broken wing.  Facing a tight deadline he didn’t have time to take the crippled bird to a veterinarian himself, so he hailed a cab and gave the driver money to cover the pigeon’s fare and care.

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When it’s a slow day at the Supreme Court  I sometimes walk over to the Library of Congress, where Howard has donated most of his drawings.  I fill out a slip, give it to a librarian and pretty soon I’m once again getting fresh inspiration his amazing, strong drawings.

Thank you, Howard!

Howard Brodie’s obit in the San Francisco Chronicle can be found here.

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Posted in History

Perspective Lesson

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The New York Times’ Adam Liptak  looks at the ethical question faced by
courtroom artists who take on private commissions in an article titled ‘Question of Perspective in Courtroom Paintings’ .  The article focuses on Todd Crespi ( shown above sketching Bush v. Gore in 2000 ), an artist who clearly crosses an ethical line.

I’m quoted in the article as saying I’m “not very critical of Todd” , and it may appear that I condone his misrepresentations. I don’t.

But before condemning him I need to remind myself of a few journalistic lapses in my past. It used to be common practice to have artists do “re-creations” for a news stories, and lawyers still ask to have their day in court sketched after the fact.

Today I have a bright line : a sketch artist doesn’t sketch what he has not witnessed.

Once on a visit to the Folger I saw two nearly identical 17th century prints of a knight on horseback, the only difference was that one had the head of Charles I, and the other the head of Oliver Cromwell.

 

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Posted in History, Supreme Court
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