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John M. Harlan

“I can’t join your dissent in the ‘call to nature’ case”

John Marshall Harlan, 1899–1971.  Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1955–1971.  Autographed Note Signed, JMH, one page, 4” x 5½”, on memorandum stationery of the Supreme Court of the United States, June 6, 1957. 

Harlan writes to Justice Tom C. Clark to say that he cannot join Clark’s dissent in Ringhiser v. Chesapeake & O. Ry., 354 U.S. 901 (1957).  In full:  “Dear Tom—  /  As you anticipated, I can’t join your dissent in the ‘call to nature’ case, so have written a small piece of my own.”   

This is a rare piece of internal Supreme Court correspondence between justices.  In Ringhiser, the Supreme Court summarily granted review and reversed an order setting aside am employee’s favorable jury verdict and granting judgment for the railroad.  Clark and Harlan both dissented, arguing that the railroad could not have foreseen that the employee would be injured while urgently defecating in a railroad car. 

This note is virtually pristine.  It has one horizontal fold and a slight bend at the upper right blank corner.  Overall it is in very fine condition. 

Provenance:  This note comes from the personal collection of Justice Clark, who served on the Supreme Court from 1949 until 1967. Justice Clark collected the autographs of Supreme Court Justices dating back into the 19th Century.  This one comes with the backing page, which bears the federal eagle watermark and Justice Harlan’s typed name, that Justice Clark inserted behind the item in the page protector used to house this piece his collection.  A note on the backing sheet in another hand reads “Xtra—one in First Volume already.”  This piece is not laid down to the backing sheet.  Unframed.



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