Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall


Information about Justice Marshall Thurgood’s biography was obtained through literature reviews of written works such as books, web materials and journals. The reason for preferring such sources is the fact that they provide accurate and precise details about Thurgood Marshall and his overall life history. Moreover, these sources contain consistent dates of events that took place in Marshall’s life from the time he was born until he died. Throughout the research carried out on the biography of Justice Marshall, secondary method of collecting data was also found to be quite relevant in the research study. In this case, content analysis has been used to obtain information from the written sources. Additionally, both qualitative and quantitative research methods have been used to obtain relevant data that could give as much information as possible. Quantitative research method has also made it possible to collect figurative data such as the tentative and exact dates when various events took place in the life of Justice Marshall. On the other hand, qualitative research method has been used to collect theoretical information on chronological set of events in Thurgood’s life as as judge of the Supreme Court in United States of America.

Thurgood’s early life, education, marriage and family

Marshall Thurgood was the first African-American justice in US Supreme Court. He was born in 1908 in Baltimore, USA and died in 1993 having served in various capacities with the justice system (Dunham 2). He was the son of Noma Williams and Canfield Marshall (Williams 13). He commenced his elementary education at the age of six in Baltimore and later, he enrolled for his secondary education at Fredrick Douglass high school in Maryland in 1925. After passing his high school education, he later proceeded to joinLincoln University in 1930 and Howard University to pursue law whereby he graduated in 1933 ready to join the job market. It was also an important part of his life when he married Vivian Buster in 1929 as his first wife who later passed away in 1955 (Gibson 4). On December of the same year, he married his second wife Cecilia Suyat and they got two sons, John Marshall and Thurgood Marshall junior. Indeed, this was a challenging part of his life when he had to balance between family and his career as a judicial expert.

Career development and working experience of Marshall Thurgood

Thurgood received a scholarship to pursue a degree in constitutional law at Harvard University shortly after he graduated and obtained his first degree at the university. However, he turned down the offer since it only offered him very little for his own upkeep and the family (Williams 23). As a matter of fact, he began to practice privately as a lawyer where he represented indigenous citizens who had civil cases In Baltimore. This appeared to be a lucrative career for him especially as this time when he had to fend for the family. During this time, cases were very scarce and he ended up closing down his office (Williams 25). However, he happened to become very popular from the short time he was practicing law. He was well known for helping black people who were being segregated by the whites. It is also notable that during this period, one of the famous legal victories was the Murray vs Pearson where he sued the Maryland University for not admitting Black-American for studies in 1935. One year later, that is in 1936, Thurgood joined National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where his former Mentor at Houston offered him a position (Dunham 12). He acted as a staff lawyer for NAACP under Houston. Later in 1940, he became the director for NAACP Education Fund and Legal Defense. He held the position until 1961. During the period between 1940 and 1961 he won so many cases which were filed against black American. As an example, in 1954 his greatest victory came about when he won a landmark case namely Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka (Williams 33). This marked the end of legal segregation between American and Black-American children in schools. Moreover, racial segregation in educational sectors in America was declared unconstitutional. Later in 1961, Marshall was appointed to the Court of Appeal in USA where he served for the second circuit by President John Kennedy (Gibson 20). He remained in the position until 1965 when he became the solicitor general for USA. It is imperative to note that the period from 1938 to 1961 was indeed critical in his career life as a judge bearing in mind that he became a distinguished lawyer for winning 29 cases out of 32 that had been presented before him in the United States Supreme Court (Dunham 23).

Discussion of Justice Thurgood Marshall Tenure on the Court including a discussion of at least five majority opinions that he authored during his time on the Court.

During his tenure as a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court, he primarily embarked on opinions regarding the constitutional laws.Throughout his occupancy on the Supreme Court, Marshall was a dedicated laissez-faire judge who stressed on the need for equitable and fair treatment of the minor races in America. In this case, he targeted both the state and federal governments’ policies on racism. In addition, he conducted hardheaded judicial activities throughout his tenure in Supreme Court. Marshall’s major opinions were succinctly concerned on obscenity and rights of native Americans (Thurgood 4). Besides this, one of his major opinions was to formulate a better approach to the interpretation the fourteenth amendment of a clause that guaranteed equal treatment of all races by law. Though his opinion was never taken since it was just a sliding scale, he presented and won many civil cases. Adamantly, Marshall presented an opinion against corporal punishment. His opinion also supported the role of the national government in presiding over the right of the state. Marshall also criticized the rigidity of equal protection claiming that the government was strict on suspects from certain races. He therefore proposed that the government should be flexible to examine the nature of any group without discrimination them. In 1969, he made an amendment opinion that stated that individuals have the right to own obscene materials in their residential homes (Thurgood 5). Notably, this opinion was brought into scene by the Stanley vs Georgia case. In addition to this, he gave an opinion that municipality did not have to constitutionally abolish use of “for sale” signs since they feared that their use could result to ‘white flight’ (Thurgood 4). This issue came about due to the Linmark associate vs Township of Willingboro case in 1977.

A discussion/analysis of the judicial philosophy of the Justice—-ex—-Liberal or conservative, Activist or restraint

Prior to the appointment of Marshall in the Supreme Court, he was a liberalist who consistently advocated for the rights of both natives and non-natives against intrusion by the state government (Ball 10). Moreover, he also supported equality among minor races. Marshall Philosophy was also based on constitutional protection of criminal suspects’ rights against unlawful scrutiny by the government (Thurgood 2). In addition to this, he used his position to compile liberal records that supported abortion rights and as well opposed death penalties. In his time, he argued death-related cases in lower courts that became a landmark in ending racial segregation in America (Thurgood 5).Moreover, his nearly quarter-century in the Supreme Court, Marshall remained a sturdy supporter of civil rights and was never wavered in his devotion to ending all form of racial discrimination (Smith 102). Therefore, he left a major mark in the Court’s progressive majority, a factor that supported woman’s right to abortion.

A discussion/analysis of the impact of the Justice on Criminal Procedure

Marshall made a significant step to bring appositive impact on criminal justice procedures. In this Case, he brought to an end unlawful discrimination of suspects by the government who were subjected to strict scrutiny depending on their race (Tushnet 399). On the other hand, one can also argue that Marshall was a judicial activist since he illustratively enforced the US constitution and proposed several amendments to suit the interest of the minorities (Ball 12). Marshall criticized the rigidity of state government in the manner in which they treated minor prisoners and criminal suspects. He advocated for flexibility by the court to closely evaluate and consider the nature of suspected groups rather than subjecting them to discrimination. Thus effort ensured that criminal procedures were executed in regard to the law and not the interest of the group. Fundamentally, Marshall’s argument made the government to develop a sense of fairness and equal protection of criminal suspects under the law (Tushnet 399). As an example, Marshall proposed the interpretation of the 14th amendment, a clause on equal protection in USA (Ball 22). He purposed to evaluate the government objectives on its interest against individuals who were affected by the law. Furthermore, Marshall undermined the idea of corporal punishment for prisoners. In this case, he used his tenure to actively advocate for the government rights to preside over individual rights in the state (White 44). Therefore, one can argue that the period which Marshall served as a judge in the Supreme Court impacted numerous ideological changes on criminal procedures.

In summing up, it is worth to reiterate that Justice Thurgood Marshall left a tremendous mark in the justice system having advocated for the rights of the voiceless individuals in the wider United States of America. As the first Africa-American justice in the United States Supreme Court, he developed an intense sensitivity against the racial injustices in America. He left a legacy out of his ideological changes in the American constitution having become an associate justice in the US Supreme Court. As a liberal activist of minority rights, he consistently advocated for equality among races in America. Moreover, his significant efforts brought to an end racial segregation, unlawful criminal prosecutions and corporal punishment against the non-native American citizens (Smith 88). As a civil rights activist, his efforts earned him remarkable reputation in advocating for social change.

Works Cited

Ball, Howard. Thurgood Marshall and the Persistence of Racism in America, New York, NY: Crown, 1998. Print.

Dunham, Montrew, Thurgood Marshall (Biography Series), New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print.

Gibson, Bush. Thurgood Marshall, London, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. Smith, Clay. Supreme Justice: Speeches and Writings, New York, NY: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003. Print.

Thurgood, Marshall. “Reflections on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution”, Harvard Law Review 101 (1987): 1–5.Print.

Tushnet, Mark. Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936– 1961, London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1994.Print.

White, Edward. The American Judicial Tradition: Profiles of Leading American Judges (3rd ed.), Oxford, USA: Oxford University Press, (2007), Print.

Williams, Juan.Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.

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