1955 March 17

John Marshall Harlan, II Joins Supreme Court


Appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, John Marshall Harlan, II was the grandson of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan. The elder Harlan is famous for his dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the principle of separate but equal and racial segregation (see the decision on May 18, 1896).

Harlan, II, was a moderate conservative on the Court who wrote a number of important pro-civil liberties opinions and dissents, including NAACP v. Alabama on June 30, 1958, which established a freedom of association under the First Amendment; Poe v. Ullman (in which his dissent as an important early statement of a constitutional right to privacy), on June 19, 1961; and Cohen v. California on June 7, 1971, an important freedom of speech case during the Vietnam War.

Learn more: Tinsley Yarbrough, John Marshall Harlan: Great Dissenter of the Warren Court (1992)

And more about Justice Harlan, II here.

Read: Peter Irons, A People’s History of the Supreme Court (1999)

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