Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oyez Project Supreme Court Archive finishes job begun by Peter Irons

NPR reports that Chicago Kent's Oyez project has provided the great service of completing its archives of Supreme Court oral arguments going back to 1955.
As of just a few weeks ago, all of the archived historical audio — which dates back to 1955 — has been digitized, and almost all of those cases can now be heard and explored at an online archive called the Oyez Project.
Oyez Project founder and director Jerry Goldman tells NPR the digital recordings archive began in the early 1990s from a simple idea: to give the public access to unabridged Supreme Court recordings.
Peter Irons
But the account leaves out the groundbreaking work of historian and lawyer Peter Irons whose 1993 May It Please the Court presented the audio tapes of arguments before the court in twenty two landmark cases.  Irons had permission to listen to the tapes but not to copy them, reportedly annoying Justice William Rehnquist.  It was a tiny act of civil disobedience for Irons who was a draft resister who had spent time in federal prison for his defiance of the draft.  He was profiled by psychiatrist Willard Gaylin in his book of profiles of war resisters in prison `In the Service of their Country'.  He found Irons entirely sane, which I recall being the case when he and I were graduate students of Howard Zinn in 1970.  Irons has gone on to prove his mettle as both historian and lawyer - particularly in his important role in efforts to reopen the Fred Korematsu wartime Japanese internment cases.  Irons is retired from the UC San Diego political science department where he founded and directs the Earl Warren Bill of Rights Project.  Irons is nothing if not persistent.  In an effort recently embraced by conservative columnist George Will , Irons is now campaigning to get the United States Supreme Court to repudiate its notorious Korematsu decision upholding the interment of Japanese Americans in WW II.

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