Justice Marshall returning He'll hear cases here this month

October 17, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is coming home to Baltimore -- to sit as a judge in the city where he was born and raised and where he began his legal career six decades ago.

Justice Marshall will hear appeals court arguments in the Edward A. Garmatz federal courthouse during the week of Oct. 26, said Thomas Schrinel, deputy executive of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Marshall returned to the bench in New York City in January to listen to arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He said at the time that he came out of retirement because "I enjoy working."

Circuit Court Judge Francis D. Murnaghan said he is looking forward to sitting on the bench with the retired 84-year-old justice.

"I'm glad he's coming to sit, and has chosen to sit with us," said Judge Murnaghan, who added that he could not recall a retired Supreme Court justice ever hearing cases at the Garmatz courthouse. "It's really an honor for the 4th Circuit," the judge said.

The federal appeals court is based in Richmond, but judgeshear cases in Baltimore every other month.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Justice Marshall, who grew up in a house on Druid Hill Avenue. The retired justice, who now lives in Washington, took a brief tour of the Garmatz courthouse Thursday.

"I think it's wonderful that he will come," said District Judge John R. Hargrove. "He started off pretty much in the District Court of Maryland arguing cases here, and I think it's wonderful if he comes back and sits here every once in a while." Judge Hargrove said the appearance would draw members of the public downtown to the federal courthouse.

Chief Circuit Judge Sam J. Ervin placed Justice Marshall on the court's roster after speaking with retired Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who often sits on the appellate court in Richmond, Mr. Schrinel said.

"Justice Powell had contacted Chief Judge Ervin and told him that Justice Marshall was interested in sitting with us," he said.

Mr. Schrinel said Justice Marshall will hear 20 cases during the week and will participate in writing the decisions. He said the justice will sit on panels with at least five other circuit and district judges.

Justice Marshall became the first black to serve on the nation's highest court after being nominated by President Lyndon Johnson on June 13, 1967.

He was a legal giant before serving on the court. In 1954, he successfully argued the Brown vs. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court, which overturned the separate-but-equal doctrine that sanctioned racial discrimination in public schools.

He attended Howard University law school after being denied admission to the University of Maryland law school. He started his legal career in Baltimore, helping a black student win admission to UM law school with a successful challenge of its discriminatory policies.

While in Baltimore, he worked with civil rights leaders here and was one of the founders of the Monumental City Bar Association, an organization for black lawyers. He left Baltimore for New York in 1936.

A statue of Justice Marshall stands on the Pratt Street side of the Garmatz building. However, some courthouse employees and all the federal judges have grumbled about its location. They believe it belongs outside the main entrance on the building's Lombard Street side where it would be more visible.

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