Supreme Court Decisions That Changed America Are the Subject of the New Legal Landmarks Series

For Immediate Release:
June 17, 2013
Contact: Lorenzo Butler
Supreme Court Decisions That Changed America Are the Subject of the New Legal Landmarks Series

The slave Dred Scott claimed that by relocating to a free state he had become a free man. But when the Supreme Court ruled against him in 1856 and Chief Justice Roger Taney asserted that blacks were not and never could be citizens, it sent shock waves through the nation and helped lead to civil war.

Earl M. Maltz discusses his book Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. His talk is the first offering of the new series Legal Landmarks: Supreme Court Decisions that Changed America.

Maltz traces the impact of the case on northern and southern public opinion, showing how a decision meant to resolve the question of slavery in the territories only aggravated sectional animosity.  

Maltz is Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University - Camden.

Judge Lisa White Hardwick of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, offers introductory remarks.

Legal Landmarks is co-presented by the Kansas City Public Library, the Truman Library Institute, and the Federal Court Historical Society.

The series is funded by grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Legacy Fund with additional support provided by Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP and co-sponsored by the University Press of Kansas and the University of Kansas School of Law.

Other events in the series include: 

  • Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America (Tuesday, July 23, 2013). Williamjames Hull Hoffer looks at the 1896 decision which upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities. Plessy v. Ferguson established the idea of "separate but equal," which held sway (especially in Southern states) until the Civil Rights era 60 years later.
  • Mapp v. Ohio: Guarding Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures (Thursday, August 29, 2013). This 1961 case was a key element in the Warren Court's re-evaluation of almost every aspect of the criminal justice system. Carolyn N. Long examines how a conviction for pornography possession ended up rewriting law enforcement's rules regarding "unreasonable searches and seizures."


  • Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History (Thursday, September 19, 2013). Peter Charles Hoffer delves into the 1973 decision that made abortion legal, spawned controversy, debate, and even violence, and which remains a touchstone for the current "culture wars."
  • Gibbons v. Ogden: John Marshall, Steamboats and the Commerce Clause (Tuesday, October 15, 2013). When Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton were awarded a monopoly to navigate their steamboats on the waterways of New York state, competitors mounted a legal challenge.

    Herbert Alan Johnson looks at how the Supreme Court's 1824 decision determined that the federal government holds the power to regulate interstate commerce.

Admission to all events is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes each event. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at10th and Baltimore. RSVP at or call 816.701.3407.


Kansas City Public Library Beta