Dred Scott revisited
THE FOLLOWING is a parody of today's 5-4 decision holding that it is okay
to pay women less than men for similar work, so long as the pay differential
traces back beyond the 180 day statute of limitations for filing a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC. Armand Derfner, a lawyer for the Charleston,
SC, Local 1422 longshore union, wrote this:
Washington, D.C., May 29, 2007. In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court
again upheld the slave status of Dred Scott, this time on the ground that
his claim to freedom was barred by the statute of limitations. This was
Scott's second unsuccessful attempt. An earlier suit seeking Scott's
freedom was rejected in 1857, when the Supreme Court held Scott had no
standing because he "had no rights which the white man was bound to
respect." 60 U.S. 393, 407. That decision led to the Civil War and the
13th amendment, which some people had hoped would emancipate Scott and other
Today's majority, however, held that Scott's claim, like any other lawsuit,
had to be brought within a time limit known as a statute of limitations in
this case, 180 days. The Justices who voted in the majority all agreed that
the suit came too late because no new act of enslavement had occurred within
the statute of limitations, but there was some disagreement among them about
when the time limit started running.
Several of the majority Justices believed the time period started running at
Scott's birth, i.e., he should have filed suit halfway between his birth and
his first birthday. Other Justices in the majority said that since his
status originated in an earlier act of enslavement, and was simply carried
forward by a uniform state law which gave all children regardless of race
the status of their parents, the suit should have been filed within 180 days
after Scott's African ancestor first arrived in chains in the 13 colonies.
The dissenters argued that the 13th amendment immediately freed all slaves,
but the majority rejected this as simply a "policy argument," that should be
addressed by Congress or perhaps by another War.
Several of the majority Justices said in a footnote that they were not
necessarily endorsing slavery, but Justices Scalia and Alito responded that
this was an open question the Court need not reach although they did
express doubts about the slave trade because that activity did in fact
involve new acts of enslavement.
Justice Thomas, who may be sent back to slavery as a result of this
decision, voted with the majority.
by Armand Derfner