Justice Thurgood Marshall

Justice Thurgood Marshall joined the U.S. Supreme Court on October 2, 1967, replacing Justice Tom C. Clark. Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, graduating cum laude in 1930. Marshall received his legal education at the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. He graduated first in his law school class in 1933. Marshall then entered private practice, but he soon started working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) on civil rights cases. He eventually became the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, arguing numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall won probably his most notable victory as a civil rights lawyer in Brown v. Board of Education. This 1954 decision mandated racial desegregation in schools, discarding the doctrine of "separate but equal" on which the Supreme Court had relied for over half a century. Marshall then worked to defeat the resistance to desegregation that flared up in some states.

In the fall of 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit during a recess of the Senate. The Senate did not officially confirm him for almost a year. None of his majority decisions during his four years on the Second Circuit was reversed by the Supreme Court. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to be U.S. Solicitor General. He resumed arguing cases before the Supreme Court, winning key victories in voting rights.

President Johnson nominated Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court on June 13, 1967. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in his favor on August 3, and the full Senate confirmed him on August 30 in a 69-11 vote. Marshall took the judicial oath a little over a month later, becoming the first African-American Justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

Marshall remained on the Court for nearly a quarter of a century. He was a bastion of liberal principles and placed great weight on individual rights. Rather than believing that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed at the time of its ratification, he felt that it should be considered "a living document."

A staunch supporter of Miranda rights, Marshall also urged a robust interpretation of Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures. He categorically opposed the death penalty as a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Marshall endorsed the right to abortion, and he dissented from a 1986 decision that temporarily blunted the progress of LGBTQ+ rights. He held broad views of First Amendment principles involving free speech, the free exercise of religion, and the separation of church and state.

Although he had voiced an intent to serve a life term on the Court, Marshall reluctantly retired on October 1, 1991 and was replaced by Justice Clarence Thomas. He died less than 16 months later on January 25, 1993 in Bethesda, Maryland. Marshall lay in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court Building and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Selected Opinions by Justice Marshall:

Cottage Savings Ass'n v. Commissioner (1991)

Topic: Taxes

The gain or loss realized from the conversion of property into cash, or from the exchange of property for other property differing materially either in kind or in extent, is treated as income or as loss sustained. Properties are materially different if their respective possessors enjoy legal entitlements that are different in kind or extent.

Chauffeurs Local 391 v. Terry (1990)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

To determine whether a particular action will resolve legal (as opposed to equitable) rights, such that the plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial, courts must examine both the nature of the issues involved and, more importantly, the remedy sought.

Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid (1989)

Topic: Copyrights

A creator was an independent contractor when he engaged in a skilled occupation, supplied his own tools, worked in a separate workplace, was retained for a short period of time, had absolute freedom to decide when and how long to work, and had total discretion in hiring and paying assistants, among other factors. (This case concerned whether a creative work was a work for hire.)

Arkansas Best Corp. v. Commissioner (1988)

Topic: Taxes

A taxpayer's motivation in purchasing an asset is irrelevant to the question of whether it falls within the broad definition of “capital asset” in Section 1221 of the Internal Revenue Code.

U.S. v. General Dynamics (1987)

Topic: Taxes

When the filing of claims is a condition precedent to liability, an accrual-basis taxpayer providing medical benefits to its employees cannot deduct at the close of the taxable year an estimate of its obligation to pay for medical care obtained by employees or their qualified dependents during the final quarter of the year, claims for which have not been reported to the employer.

Ford v. Wainwright (1986)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

The Eighth Amendment prohibits a state from inflicting the death penalty on a prisoner who is insane.

U.S. v. Locke (1985)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

Regulation of property rights does not “take” private property when an individual's reasonable, investment-backed expectations can continue to be realized as long as they comply with reasonable regulations.

Berkemer v. McCarty (1984)

Topic: Miranda Rights

The roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop does not constitute “custodial interrogation” for the purposes of the Miranda rule.

Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp. (1982)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

When the character of a governmental action is a permanent physical occupation of property, there is a taking to the extent of the occupation regardless of whether the action achieves an important public benefit or has only a minimal economic impact on the owner.

Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno (1981)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

Plaintiffs may not defeat a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens merely by showing that the substantive law that would be applied in the alternative forum is less favorable to them than the law of the chosen forum.

Steagald v. U.S. (1981)

Topic: Search & Seizure

An arrest warrant, as opposed to a search warrant, is inadequate to protect the Fourth Amendment interests of persons not named in the warrant when their home is searched without their consent and in the absence of exigent circumstances.

Fedorenko v. U.S. (1981)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

There must be strict compliance with all the congressionally imposed prerequisites to the acquisition of citizenship. Failure to comply with any of these conditions renders the certificate of citizenship illegally procured, and naturalization that is unlawfully procured can be set aside.

Shaffer v. Heitner (1977)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

When the property serving as the basis for state court jurisdiction is completely unrelated to the plaintiff's cause of action, the presence of the property alone does not support jurisdiction without other ties among the defendant, the state, and the litigation.

Brunswick Corp. v. Pueblo Bowl-O-Mat, Inc. (1977)

Topic: Antitrust

For plaintiffs in an antitrust action to recover treble damages on account of violations of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, they must prove an injury of the type that the antitrust laws were intended to prevent and that flows from that which makes the defendants' acts unlawful. The injury must reflect the anti-competitive effect of either the violation or anti-competitive acts made possible by the violation.

Union Electric Co. v. EPA (1976)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

Since Congress intended that grounds of economic and technological infeasibility should be deemed wholly foreign to EPA consideration of a state implementation plan, a court of appeals reviewing an approved plan cannot set it aside on these grounds, regardless of when they are raised.

Dann v. Johnston (1976)

Topic: Patents

The mere existence of differences between the prior art and an invention does not establish the invention's non-obviousness.

Linda R.S. v. Richard D. (1973)

Topic: Role of Courts

A private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or non-prosecution of someone else.

U.S. v. Topco Associates, Inc. (1972)

Topic: Antitrust

A scheme of allocating territories to minimize competition at the retail level was found to be a horizontal restraint constituting a per se violation.

Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe (1971)

Topic: Government Agencies

Arbitrary and capricious review (used for informal rulemaking or adjudication) requires the reviewing court to engage in a substantial inquiry, or a thorough, probing, in-depth review. A court must decide whether the agency acted within the scope of its authority, whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors, whether there has been a clear error of judgment, and whether the action followed the necessary procedural requirements.

U.S. v. Skelly Oil Co. (1969)

Topic: Taxes

Under Section 1341 of the Internal Revenue Code, the deduction allowable in the year of repayment must be reduced by the percentage depletion allowance granted to the taxpayer in the years of receipt as a result of the inclusion of the later-refunded items in their “gross income from the property” in those years. The tax law should not be interpreted as allowing a deduction for refunding money that was not taxed when it was received.

Pickering v. Board of Education (1968)

Topic: Labor & Employment; Free Speech

When a public employee's false statements concerned issues that were currently the subject of public attention and did not interfere with the performance of their duties or the general operation of their employer, they were entitled to the same protection as if the statements had been made by a member of the general public.