THE LONE STAR AND THE HIGH COURT
Over the past decade websites such as www.scotusblog.com, www.streetlaw.org and www.oyez.org have played an increasingly important role in disseminating information about U.S. Supreme Court decisions including Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) and Bostock v. Clayton County (2020). Indeed, online sources have essentially outpaced conventional news outlets, offering readers a more comprehensive analysis than television or daily newspapers can provide. Despite this explosion of on-line material, public understanding of the Supreme Court remains at an all-time low. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll only 34% of respondents could identify John Roberts as the Chief Justice and 49% could not name Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic appointed to the High Court. A Columbia Law School poll further reveals that a majority of Americans know neither the basic issues of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision nor the fact that it originated in Dallas Texas.
This latter statistic is of particular importance to Texans. Over the past two centuries the Lone Star State has served as the point of origin for a number of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. Equally striking is the way in which such cases have stood at the forefront of national political change, whether the controversy involved federalism (Texas v. White 1869), corporate regulation (Texas Pacific Railway v. Southern Pacific Co. 1890), elimination of the all-white political primary (Smith v. Allwright 1944), desegregation of higher education (Sweatt v. Painter 1950), abortion (Roe v. Wade 1973), flag burning (Texas v. Johnson 1989), gun control (U.S. v. Lopez 1995), gay rights (Lawrence v. Texas 2003), separation of church and state (Van Orden v. Perry 2005), or affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas 2013).
Texas has long represented a battleground for hotly contested constitutional issues for several reasons. As one of the most populous and multicultural states, Texas has often served as ground zero for issues like immigration, civil rights, social justice that affect the nation as a whole. Furthermore, as the inheritors of Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American legal traditions plus their own legacy of revolution, Texans have long been vocal in their defense of “rights” and “liberties.” Texas’s unique location at the intersection of the Solid South and the far west has likewise made it an ideal site of legal contestation for ordinary Texans hoping to effect national constitutional change or Supreme Court justices handing down precedents involving multiple regions of the country.
The LONE STAR AND HIGH COURT website presents more than merely a recitation of Texas or U.S. Supreme Court history. It reveals the ways in which grassroots activists and justices at the national level interacted together to bring about lasting change for millions of Americans. Above all, this project depicts Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade and Texas v. Johnson as critical public debates in both the federal courts and the court of public opinion. The site shows how ordinary Texans— teenagers, businesspeople, union activists, prisoners, and civil rights demonstrators—took principled stands on the important political and social crises faced by their respective generations.