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Vol. X, No. 1
November, 1964

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Behind the Editorial We

One morning before breakfast as the Editor washed the dinner dishes, the phone rang. An attorney from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice was calling from Washington to ask whether there was an issue of the CIVIL LIBERTIES DOCKET later than July 1964. After the Editor made her excuses for the lateness of the November issue (being mailed in February), the Government attorney explained that he needed a list of cases in which individuals were suing for the vindication of their civil rights.

Returning to the pots, the Editor recalled a similar call last fall. Someone from the Governor's office in Sacramento had needed a list of all California suits concerning discrimination in housing for the campaign to defeat Proposition 14. She remembered with some chagrin her husband's reaction when she explained it would take several days to go through all nine volumes of the DOCKET to check the history of each California housing case, then to check citations for accuracy and the advance sheets for later developments. As a nonlawyer aware of the State's large budget, her husband had expressed shock at the notion that there would be no payment for this research. On his urgings, and after a second call from Sacramento asking her to hurry up, she did submit a small bill to the caller, who said he would see what he could do, but the bill was never acknowledged.

The Failure of Success

These calls started a long train of thoughts back to the spring of 1955 when two experimental issues of the DOCKET were mimeographed. The National Lawyers Guild wasn't sure it would be possible to obtain information on cases handled by lawyers not known personally, and suggested that certain categories of cases, including the few desegregation cases, might have to be omitted. The Editor assured the Guild that court clerks would be cooperative.

And indeed they have been. For nine years, clerks from JP and recorder's courts to supreme courts have answered queries. And so have the attorneys whose names and addresses the court clerks have supplied. And so have the numerous organizations engaged in civil liberties and civil rights litigation. As a matter of fact, by the time one issue gets into the mail today, the drawer is overflowing with unsolicited material for the next issue. Three law students working every Saturday cannot keep up with the mail. And as the Editor rushes to work every afternoon—to her other (paying) job—she hears the unanswered letters and half-written cases hissing at her from her desk.

The fact is that the DOCKET has been so successful in gathering information that it may defeat its own purpose. The original idea was that it would be brief, accurate, timely. The hope was that the collection and description of cases would be only the first step, that soon it would be possible for the Editor to give over these tasks to others and to spend her own time analyzing trends in cases and suggesting new approaches.

But the 281 cases in Vol. I, No. 1 have ballooned to 774 cases in this Vol. X, No. 1. And the brief writeups have become longer as the Editor and her colleagues have learned that the procedural steps may be decisive, and therefore must be detailed if counsel are to profit from each other's experiences. Accuracy means more hours of checking. This makes each issue later than the last one. And it means that the Editor only supervises the collection of facts and rewrites cases and raises money and saves money and builds circulation. At $25. per printed page, she even feels obliged to limit her summing up to one page per issue.

Uncounted Wealth

Unfortunately the brief writers, legal scholars, law students and students in other disciplines (poli. sci., history, economics, philosophy, criminology, sociology, education, English) have seldom seen the wealth in the DOCKET'S pages, or realized each issue contains the text for at least 100 sermons, to say nothing of short story plots, libretti, and PhD thesis subjects.

The National Lawyers Guild is of course proud of its role as publisher of this DOCKET of cases. But it must also support its offices in Jackson and Detroit, and carry on its activities as a small national bar association.

The Future Lies Ahead

Can the judicial council in your state, or a committee of your state bar, or the clerk of your state supreme court, or the fact-gathering agency of your state legislature or governor's office undertake to collect constitutional litigation filed in your state courts? And follow it through to decision? And publish studies on this litigation?

As the Editor ended the day checking proof and scowling at the new accumulation in the sink, she decided to put a good face on necessity by suggesting:

The DOCKET will be happy to continue to report cases that others ignore. But in these exciting days there is work enough for all. We welcome cooperative efforts in this fundamental field in the next decade.

Yours respectfully,
(Mrs. James F. Wood)


There is a massive conspiracy afoot in this country comprising a vast network of interlocking agencies with carefully devised plans to circumvent each new development. This conspiracy is fearless and works by subterfuge under color of law with illconcealed contempt for the rule of law. Its tentacles stretch into virtually every American community, wearing different guises according to the local customs. This conspiracy is far more dangerous to our society than the much-publicized Mafia. The effects of its method of operation will be felt unto the coming generations.

These conspirators against the future of our nation are the members of every School Board which has failed to accept and implement the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions declaring that free, equal, and integrated education for all children is indispensable to democracy.

The DOCKET has reported 369 school desegregation cases since 1955; 144 are reported at 522. and 523. in this issue. 8 of the 144 cases were filed more than 10 years ago. Several cases have been tried, briefed, argued on appeal, had execution stayed, and been appealed again, only to be reversed and remanded, again tried, briefed, argued on appeal. See e.g., the Prince Edward Co. case, 522.Va.1, or Bush v. Orleans Parish, 522.La.1.

And where are the segregated first graders of 1954 whose parents believed education was central, that education would open the way to suffrage, to jobs, to housing, to the New Society?