1939 July 17

NY Times Endorses Bar Association Civil Liberties Committee


The New York Times on this day published an editorial commending the civil liberties work of the American Bar Association (ABA). The editorial represented a reversal of their positions on civil liberties for both organization. Until very recently, the ABA had been indifferent to civil liberties issues, and hostile to many issues. On August 14, 1938, however, it created the special Committee on the Bill of Rights, which then began to file amicus briefs in important cases before the Supreme Court. At issue in the Times editorial was the ABA committee’s role in defending the freedom of speech and assembly issues in the struggle of labor unions to win the right to organize in Jersey City, New Jersey. That case resulted in the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hague v. C.I.O. on June 5, 1939.

The New York Times, meanwhile, was in the past hostile to civil liberties. I greeted the formation of the National Civil Liberties Bureau, forerunner of the ACLU, on July 4, 1917, with an editorial headlined “Jails Are Waiting for Them.”

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