Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cases I Don't Like

Dred Scott Decision

While I was reading the Dred Scott decision the other day, I felt uncomfortable reading the attitudes of Chief Justice Taney. I knew from my American History courses how the case would turn out, and what the rationale was for the decision. I braced myself for the reading but it was painful nonetheless. Aside from the human element, it was further frustrating looking at the structure of the argument itself. The ruling had internal logical inconsistencies and circular logic. It was hard to believe a Supreme Court Chief Justice would concoct such sophistry.

I'm not a "I feel your pain" type of guy. When I first heard that line-turned-cliché in the '92 presidential campaign, my first reaction was "Go feel your own pain." However, while I was reading this case, I found myself asking how do black US law students feel when they read the decision. I then wondered how Afro-Carribeans felt when they read the case or how Africans felt when they read the decision. I wonder if their reading that case puts them in a bad mood.

I knew how the case turned out. Dred Scott didn't have standing to bring a case in the court because of his race and therefore lack of citizenship, the court held. However, I did find out with the help of Google that a Dred Scott sympathizer bought Scott and his family and emancipated him. Scott himself only had 18 months of freedom because he was stricken with TB, but at least he died a free man.

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