September – National Awareness


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1981 – The U.S. Senate confirmed Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Image result for Sandra Day O'Connor Quotes About Women

President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizona court of appeals judge, to be the first woman Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. On September 21, the Senate unanimously approved her appointment to the nation’s highest court, and on September 25 she was sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Sandra Day was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930. She grew up on her family’s cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona and attended Stanford University, where she studied economics. A legal dispute over her family’s ranch stirred her interest in law, and in 1950 she enrolled in Stanford Law School. She took just two years to receive her law degree and was ranked near the top of her class. Upon graduation, she married John Jay O’Connor III, a classmate.

Because she was a woman, no law firm she applied to would hire her for a suitable position, so she turned to the public sector and found work as a deputy county attorney for San Mateo, California. In 1953, her husband was drafted into the U.S. Army as a judge, and the O’Connors lived for three years in West Germany, with Sandra working as a civilian lawyer for the army. In 1957, they returned to the United States and settled down in Phoenix, Arizona, where they had three children in the six years that followed. During this time, O’Connor started a private law firm with a partner and became involved in numerous volunteer activities.

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Sedition


A revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority, usually in the form of Treason or Defamation against government.

Sedition is the crime of revolting or inciting revolt against government. However, because of the broad protection of free speech under the First Amendment, prosecutions for sedition are rare. Nevertheless, sedition remains a crime in the United States under 18 U.S.C.A. § 2384 (2000), a federal statute that punishes seditious conspiracy, and 18 U.S.C.A. § 2385 (2000), which outlaws advocating the overthrow of the federal government by force. Generally, a person may be punished for sedition only when he or she makes statements that create a Clear and Present Danger to rights that the government may lawfully protect (schenck v. united states, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L. Ed. 470 [1919]).

The crime of seditious conspiracy is committed when two or more persons in any state or U.S. territory conspire to levy war against the U.S. government. A person commits the crime of advocating the violent overthrow of the federal government when she willfully advocates or teaches the overthrow of the government by force, publishes material that advocates the overthrow of the government by force, or organizes persons to overthrow the government by force. A person found guilty of seditious conspiracy or advocating the overthrow of the government may be fined and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. States also maintain laws that punish similar advocacy and conspiracy against the state government.

Governments have made sedition illegal since time immemorial. The precise acts that constitute sedition have varied. In the United States, Congress in the late eighteenth century believed that government should be protected from “false, scandalous and malicious” criticisms. Toward this end, Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1798, which authorized the criminal prosecution of persons who wrote or spoke falsehoods about the government, Congress, the president, or the vice president. The act was to expire with the term of President John Adams.

The Sedition Act failed miserably. Thomas Jefferson opposed the act, and after he was narrowly elected president in 1800, public opposition to the act grew. The act expired in 1801, but not before it was used by President Adams to prosecute numerous public supporters of Jefferson, his challenger in the presidential election of 1800. One writer, Matthew Lyon, a congressman from Vermont, was found guilty of seditious libel for stating, in part, that he would not be the “humble advocate” of the Adams administration when he saw “every consideration of the public welfare swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” (Lyon’s Case, 15 F. Cas. 1183 [D. Vermont 1798] [No. 8646]). Vermont voters reelected Lyon while he was in jail. Jefferson, after winning the election and assuming office, pardoned all persons convicted under the act.

In the 1820s and 1830s, as the movement to abolish Slavery grew in size and force in the South, Southern states began to enact seditious libel laws. Most of these laws were used to prosecute persons critical of slavery, and they were abolished after the Civil War. The federal government was no less defensive; Congress enacted seditious conspiracy laws before the Civil War aimed at persons advocating secession from the United States. These laws were the precursors to the present-day federal seditious conspiracy statutes.

In the late nineteenth century, Congress and the states began to enact new limits on speech, most notably statutes prohibiting Obscenity. At the outset of World War I, Congress passed legislation designed to suppress antiwar speech. The Espionage Act of 1917 (ch. 30, tit. 1, § 3, 40 Stat. 219), as amended by ch. 75, § 1, 40 Stat 553, put a number of pacifists into prison. Socialist leader eugene v. debs was convicted for making an antiwar speech in Canton, Ohio (Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211, 39 S. Ct. 252, 63 L. Ed. 566 [1919]). Charles T. Schenck and Elizabeth Baer were convicted for circulating to military recruits a leaflet that advocated opposition to the draft and suggested that the draft violated the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on Involuntary Servitude (Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L. Ed. 470 [1919]).

The U.S. Supreme Court did little to protect the right to criticize the government until after 1927. That year, Justice louis d. brandeis wrote an influential concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 47 S. Ct. 641, 71 L. Ed. 1095 (1927), that was to guide First Amendment Jurisprudence for years to come. In Whitney the High Court upheld the convictions of political activists for violation of federal anti-syndicalism laws, or laws that prohibit the teaching of crime. In his concurring opinion, Brandeis maintained that even if a person advocates violation of the law, “it is not a justification for denying free speech where the advocacy falls short of incitement and there is nothing to indicate that the advocacy would be immediately acted on.” Beginning in the 1930s, the Court became more protective of political free speech rights.

The High Court has protected the speech of racial supremacists and separatists, labor organizers, advocates of racial Integration, and opponents of the draft for the Vietnam War. However, it has refused to declare unconstitutional all sedition statutes and prosecutions. In 1940, to silence radicals and quell Nazi or communist subversion during the burgeoning Second World War, Congress enacted the Smith Act (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 2385, 2387), which outlawed sedition and seditious conspiracy. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951).

Sedition prosecutions are extremely rare, but they do occur. Shortly after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, the federal government prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric living in New Jersey, and nine codefendants on charges of seditious conspiracy. Rahman and the other defendants were convicted of violating the seditious conspiracy statute by engaging in an extensive plot to wage a war of Terrorism against the United States. With the exception of Rahman, they all were arrested while mixing explosives in a garage in Queens, New York, on June 24, 1993.

The defendants committed no overt acts of war, but all were found to have taken substantial steps toward carrying out a plot to levy war against the United States. The government did not have sufficient evidence that Rahman par ticipated in the actual plotting against the government or any other activities to prepare for terrorism. He was instead prosecuted for pro viding religious encouragement to his cocon spirators. Rahman argued that he only performed the function of a cleric and advised followers about the rules of Islam. He and the others were convicted, and on January 17, 1996, Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge Michael Mukasey.

Following the September 11th Attacks of 2001, the federal government feared that terrorist networks were very real threats, and that if left unchecked, would lead to further insurrection. As a result, Congress enacted the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272. Among other things, the act increases the president’s authority to seize the property of individuals and organizations that the president determines have planned, authorized, aided, or engaged in hostilities or attacks against the United States.

The events of September 11 also led to the conviction of at least one American. In 2001, U.S. officials captured John Philip Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen who had trained with terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lindh, who became known as the “American Taliban,” was indicted on ten counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals. In October 2002, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Further readings

Cohan, John Alan. 2003. “Seditious Conspiracy, the Smith Act, and Prosecution for Religious Speech Advocating the Violent Overthrow of Government.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 17 (winter-spring).

Curtis, Michael Kent. 1995. “Critics of ‘Free Speech’ and the Uses of the Past.” Constitutional Commentary 12 (spring).——. 1995. “The Curious History of Attempts to Suppress Antislavery Speech, Press, and Petition in 1835–37.” Northwestern University Law Review 89 (spring).

Downey, Michael P. 1998. “The Jeffersonian Myth in Supreme Court Sedition Jurisprudence.” Washington University Law Quarterly 76 (summer).

Gibson, Michael T. 1986. “The Supreme Court and Freedom of Expression from 1791 to 1917.” Fordham Law Review 55 (December).

Grinstein, Joseph. 1996. “Jihad and the Constitution: The First Amendment Implications of Combating Religiously Motivated Terrorism.” Yale Law Journal 105 (March).

Levinson, Nan. 2003. Outspoken: Free Speech Stories. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Weintraub, Leonard. 1987. “Crime of the Century: Use of the Mail Fraud Statute Against Authors.” Boston University Law Review 67 (May).

Cross-references

Cold WarCommunismFreedom of SpeechSocialism.West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

On this day … 9/21


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1792 – The French National Convention voted to abolish the monarchy.

1784 – “The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser” was published for the first time in Philadelphia. It was the first daily paper in America.

1893 – Frank Duryea took what is believed to be the first gasoline- powered automobile for a test drive. The “horseless carriage” was designed by Frank and Charles Duryea.

1897 – The New York Sun ran the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial. It was in response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon.

1931 – Britain went off the gold standard.

1931 – Japanese forces began occupying China’s northeast territory of Manchuria.

1937 – J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was first published.

1941 – “The Second Mrs. Burton” premiered to the entire CBS Radio Network.

1948 – Milton Berle debuted as the host of “The Texaco Star Theater” on NBC-TV. The show later became “The Milton Berle Show.” Berle was the regular host until 1967.

1948 – “Life With Luigi” debuted on CBS Radio.

1949 – Communist leaders proclaimed The People’s Republic of China.

1957 – “Perry Mason”, the television series, made its debut on CBS-TV. The show was on for 9 years.

1961 – Antonio Abertondo swam the English Channel (in both directions) in 24 hours and 25 minutes.

1964 – Malta gained independence from Britain.

1966 – The Soviet probe Zond 5 returned to Earth. The spacecraft completed the first unmanned round-trip flight to the moon.

1970 – “NFL Monday Night Football” made its debut on ABC-TV. The game was between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets. The Browns won 31-21.

1973 – Henry Kissinger was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become 56th Secretary of State. He was the first naturalized citizen to hold the office of Secretary of State.

1981 – The U.S. Senate confirmed Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

1981 – Belize gained full independence from Great Britain.

1982 – National Football League (NFL) players began a 57-day strike. It was their first regular-season walkout.

1982 – Amin Gemayel was elected president of Lebanon. He was the brother of Bashir Gemayel who was the president-elect when he was assassinated.

1984 – General Motors and the United Auto Workers union reached an agreement that would end the previous six days of spot strikes.

1985 – North and South Korea opened their borders for their family reunion program.

1993 – Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin announced that he was ousting the Communist-dominated Congress. The action was effectively seizing all state power.

1996 – The board of all-male Virginia Military Institute voted to admit women.

1996 – John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette in a secret ceremony on Cumberland Island, GA.