The Waves Minority Judges Always Make





Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black member of the Supreme Court, ended his 24 years there bitter and frustrated. He had been unable, he said, to persuade his colleagues in many cases concerning racial equality, the cause to which he had devoted his life.

“What do they know about Negroes?” Justice Marshall asked an interviewer. “You can’t name one member of this court who knows anything about Negroes before he came to this court.”

But the other justices did get to know Justice Marshall, and even the more conservative ones acknowledged that his very presence exerted a gravitational pull more powerful than his single vote.

“Marshall could be a persuasive force just by sitting there,” Justice Antonin Scalia told Juan Williams in an interview for a biography of Justice Marshall, recalling the justices’ private conferences about cases. “He wouldn’t have to open his mouth to affect the nature of the conference and how seriously the conference would take matters of race.”

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