Before he became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall had a groundbreaking legal career — one spent fighting for civil rights, racial equality, and fairness in the criminal justice system. When he retired from the Court, his colleagues reflected on how his unique perspective influenced the Justices’ deliberations. According to Justice Byron White,
Thurgood brought to the conference table years of experience in an area that was of vital importance to our work, experience that none of us could claim to match. . . . He characteristically would tell us things that we knew but would rather forget; and he told us much that we did not know due to the limitations of our own experience.
Today, federal judges like Marshall are the exception rather than the rule — far too few of them have worked as civil rights lawyers or represented indigent criminal defendants.
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