February 9, 1953 – Justice Robert H. Jackson Clarifies the Role of the Supreme Court

Brown v. Allen (344 U.S. 443) was part of a group of cases that was reargued before the Supreme Court since, as Justice Stanley Reed explained in writing his decision for the Court:

As the records raised serious federal constitutional questions upon which the carrying out of death sentences depended and procedural issues of importance in the relations between states and the federal government upon which there was disagreement in this Court, we decided to set the cases for reargument.”

Justice Stanley Forman Reed

Justice Stanley Forman Reed

This decision is notable because, beginning with this case, the Supreme Court expanded access to federal habeas corpus review for state prisoners. It is also in this decision that Justice Jackson offered, in his concurrence, his famous view about the nature of the Supreme Court, opining:

We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

Neither Justice Reed nor Justice Jackson, by the way, ever graduated law school.

Justice Robert H. Jackson

Justice Robert H. Jackson

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