The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832–1978

The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 contains official court filings from the final years of the court’s fourth chief justice, John Marshall, through the first 10 years of the court’s 15th chief justice, Warren Earl Burger.  Some cases consist of a few documents, while others may include dozens of documents. The collection does not include the Court’s rulings, opinions or decisions, but focuses on the legal documents and records presented to the court, including:

Appellant’s Brief Application for ReviewApplication for Writ Brief of Real Party Intervener’s Brief
Jurisdictional Statement Opposition for Review PetitionsRelator’s Brief Transcripts

Quick Facts

  • 202,971 documents
  • 76,830 cases
  • 10,807,719 pages

The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 includes famous briefs written by leading attorneys (many who later became judges and associates of the Court) such as Louis D. Brandeis, Abe Fortas, Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It also contains briefs written by  institutions, corporations, and advocacy groups, including  NAACP, the ACLU and The New York Times.  It covers cases whose landmark decisions have become an essential part of American law, politics and history, including:

  • “Dred Scott v. Sandford” (1857) held that a black slave could not become a citizen under the U.S. Constitution
  • “Plessy v. Ferguson” (1896), delivered the famous “separate but equal” decision allowing for racial segregation in public transportation
  • “Schenck v. United States” (1919) enunciated the “clear and present danger” rule as a means of testing the validity of government interference with freedom of speech
  • “New York Times Co. v. United States” (1971) the famous case of the “Pentagon Papers” during the Vietnam War era
  • “United States v. Richard M. Nixon” (1974) ordered President Nixon to obey a subpoena directing him to surrender tape recordings of conversations made in the White House during the Watergate scandal

By presenting the background and context of the cases presented to the high court, The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 contains essential primary source material on every aspect of law — civil rights law, constitutional law, corporate law, environmental law, gender law, labor law, legal history and legal theory, property law, taxation, trademark and intellectual property law — as well as the major topics in American history, including:

  • The interpretation of the constitution and its amendments
  • Judicial review and the role of the courts in American history
  • States’ rights and national sovereignty
  • The institution of slavery
  • Settling of the western territories
  • Government’s role in war and peace
  • Free enterprise
  • Banking and commerce
  • Big business and organized labor
  • Discrimination and modern civil liberties
  • Intellectual property and technology
  • Environmental history and the public’s health
  • Evolving nature of race, gender, faith and identity

    Significance:  A lawyer’s brief often incorporates considerable historical, economic and sociological data, which makes it a particularly rich archival source for lawyers, historians and social scientists. From the generation before the American Civil War to the decade of the Vietnam War and Watergate, The Making of Modern Law: Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832–1978 offers an in-depth record of contemporary analytical writing by well-known social scientists, economists, sociologists, psychologists, social thinkers, scientists, historians and academics.

    In addition, The Making of Modern Law: Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832–1978:

    • Brings together a primary source component that scholars traditionally depend upon in order to answer key questions in legal and constitutional history
    • Revolutionizes the study of the Supreme Court — the apex of the American judicial system and a critical focus for students of American politics, government and history — by offering a fully searchable online resource to all major issues brought before the Supreme Court
    • Presents 140 years of court history, allowing researchers to trace the evolution of modern law in the United States
    • Supports research in other applications, including American economic history, American social history, rhetoric and the interpretation of language, African American history and critical race theory, feminist studies and jurisprudence, philosophy and ethics, social studies and more

    With full-text search capabilities on the facsimile pages, researchers can conduct
    precise searches and comparative research in every area of law.

      The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 is derived from two essential reference sources: 
    • For the period 1832 (when printed Court records began) through 1915, the documents are based primarily on the holdings of the Jenkins Memorial Law Library, America’s first law library, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • For 1915-1978, the source is the Library of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, a nationally recognized research facility and the single largest member supported law library in the United States

    Structure:  In addition to the data-capture of the full text of all works within this collection, additional details associated with each work have been captured to facilitate searching and ensure accessibility of the works within The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. Several search indexes have been developed utilizing this metadata, providing users with unequaled access to the content and providing full details within the Full Citation created for each work. Metadata includes:

    • Case name
    • Variant case name
    • Document type
    • Document file date
    • Supreme Court term year
    • Docket number
    • Alternate docket number
    • U.S. Reports citation
    • Supreme Court Reporter citation
    • Lawyer’s Edition citation
    • Opinion date
    • Author (counsel) names, including personal and organizational names
    • Case heard

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