Supreme Court Justice: Hugo Black
Hugo Black was a jurist and an American politician. Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate as a Democratic Senator from 1927 to 1937 and was also a justice in the United States Supreme Court between 1937 and 1971. He was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the judicial office and was confirmed by a 63 to 13 vote by the Senate.
Hugo Black was born on February 27, 1886, in Ashland, Alabama as the youngest in a family with children late. While he originally planned to follow the footsteps of his brother and attend medical school, he ended up enrolling at the law school of the University of Alabama. After graduating and receiving his law degree in June 1906, Hugo Black returned home and set up a legal practice, but later moved to Birmingham where his practice specialized in personal injury and labor law cases. He was then asked to serve as a police court judge, but stepped down only to later work as the Prosecuting Attorney of Jefferson County. During World War I, Hugo black resigned and joined the United States Army, where he became a captain in the 81st Field Artillery. After the war, he eventually became the Senator of Alabama from 1927 to 1937
Supreme Court Career
President Roosevelt nominated Hugo Black on August 12, 1937. Traditionally since 1853, when a senator was nominated for a judicial or executive office, he would be immediately confirmed without debate. However, the Senate departed from this practice and instead referred this nomination to the Judiciary Committee, where he was criticized for his cultural roots, presumed bigotry, and later, his membership with the Ku Klux Klan. However, the Judiciary Committee recommended his confirmation by 13–4 vote on August 16, 1937. The full Senate then considered the nomination the same day and ultimately Confirmed Hugo Black by a 63-16 vote.
As soon as Hugo Black started on the Court, he quickly promoted judicial restraint and worked to shift the Court away its habit of interjecting itself in social and economic matters. He also strongly defended the plain meaning of the Constitution as a textualist and emphasized the importance and supremacy of the legislature by saying that the purpose of the Supreme Court was constitutionally bound and limited.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): A landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that the Constitution did in fact protect a right to privacy. This case involved a Connecticut law that made the use of contraceptives illegal. The Supreme invalidated this law by a 7–2 vote on the grounds that the law violated the right to marital privacy. Justice Hugo Black, as well as Justice Potter Stewart dissented, stating that the right to privacy is not explicitly found in the Constitution. Furthermore, Black criticized the majority’s interpretations of the 9th and 14th Amendment.
Baker v. Carr (1962): A landmark Supreme Court case that moved away from the political question doctrine of the Court, and decided that that redistricting issues were justiciable questions, meaning that federal courts could intervene in order to decide reapportionment cases. The defendants of the case argued unsuccessfully that legislative district reapportionment should not have been resolved by federal courts since it was a “political question”. The decision was split in a 6 to 2 and resulted in a reformulation in just exactly what questions could be considered “political”. Justice Hugo Black compromised from his typical absolutist position and joined the majority in this case.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954): A landmark Supreme Court decision that declared that state laws which separate public schools for white and black students as unconstitutional laws, which overturned the precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Justice Hugo Black was a part of the unanimous decision which stated that the separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. The case resulted in de jure racial segregation being a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and also paved the way for the civil rights movement and integration .