The phrase “It is so ordered” is the traditional ending to opinions and orders of the court. The American Bar Association writes, “It is meant to remind the reader that the opinion is issued impersonally from ‘the Court,’ not individual justices.” It is through this lens of the dignified, impartial court that we created our exhibit, It Is So Ordered: Judges and the Law in South Carolina, highlighting SCPC’s robust, wide ranging collections of federal and South Carolina Supreme Court judges.
Two cases examine the trial process, from jury selection, to the appeals process, to the drafting of opinions. One item, a 1949 letter from an inmate to one of our judges, asks for a reduced sentence on account of good behavior and remorse for his crimes. The man had been sentenced to 3 years in jail for stealing a car, but the judge agrees to reduce his sentence by half. Also highlighted are drafts of judicial opinions. We often only see the final opinion published by the court, but judges go through weeks and months of writing and revising opinions all while reading, lobbying, and deliberating with their colleagues on the bench.
We highlight eight judges who have placed their papers with SCPC. Some interesting items include the robe of Bruce Littlejohn who served on the South Carolina Supreme Court from 1967 to 1985 (and as Chief Justice from 1984-1985); a 1906 letter by Justice Cecil Wyche of the U.S. District Court from his school years at The Citadel; and the USC School of Law report card for Judge Robert Hemphill of the U.S. District Court (he received all B’s!). These collections complement each other well and provide a valuable resource to researchers.
Finally, we examine some of the more important cases of the past 100 years. Briggs v. Elliot (1952) challenged segregation as unconstitutional. It was rolled into Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas along with 3 other cases (the U.S. Supreme Court often combines cases from multiple lower courts that deal with the same fundamental issues) and would become a landmark decision overturning segregation. Gantt v. Clemson (1963) dealt with the desegregation of Clemson, Reynolds v. Sims (1964) concerned state redistricting and the “one person, one vote” idea, and Ravenel v. Dekle (1974) ousted “Pug” Ravenel, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, due to residency requirements on Sept. 24, 1974, just weeks before the election.
We hope you come see the exhibit!
By Zach Johnson