SCOTUS history on display

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Attorneys and history buffs alike may want to consider a detour to the law library at Indiana University Maurer School of Law next time they are in or near Bloomington.

Extremely rare documents and signatures of U.S. Supreme Court justices are on display for public viewing on the second floor of the school’s law library, located at 211 S. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington.

scotus-15col A pleading by SCOTUS Chief Justice John Marshall regarding a defaulted promissory note was donated to I.U. Maurer School of Law. (Photo courtesy of IU Maurer School of Law)

Among the items in the collection are 74 signatures of U.S. Supreme Court justices who served from 1789 to present; a pleading by Chief Justice John Marshall, who served 1801-35, in the case of Blackwell v. Sydon over a defaulted promissory note, dated Nov. 24, 1785; a letter written by the first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, who served 1789-95; a slip opinion for Heller v. New York signed by the entire 1973 court; and signatures of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, who served from 1902-32; Roger Taney, who served 1836-64; Salmon Chase, who served 1864-73; Louis Brandeis, who served 1916-1939; and many others.

Also included are an 1889 Currier & Ives print of President Benjamin Harrison and his cabinet, with appended signatures of Harrison and the cabinet members; a 1963 letter from Justice William O. Douglas, who served from 1939-75, declining an invitation to write an article for Teacher’s College Journal, sent to professor Joseph R. Ellis at Indiana State College, now Indiana State University; and a two-page letter written by Judah P. Benjamin, the first Jewish member of the U.S. Senate, who later was appointed attorney general, secretary of war, and secretary of state for the Confederacy.

Many of these items are in the law library display, while the Marshall pleading is displayed inside the dean’s suite in the main law building, according to a news release from the law school.

The items were donated by collector, IU Maurer School of Law alumnus, and Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Ezra Friedlander. Judge Friedlander, who graduated with a BA in history and government from IU in 1962, told Indiana Lawyer that, while adding to his collections of sports memorabilia and art glass, he discovered an auction house had SCOTUS memorabilia among its other items. That occurred over a decade ago, and he has been collecting SCOTUS items since.

“I started with the Marshall piece, then decided to collect as many signatures as I could,” he said of the SCOTUS collection.

After collecting SCOTUS memorabilia for about 10 years, the judge realized that he was ready to stop. He wanted the law school to have the collection so others could see the items.

When collecting, regardless of the category, Judge Friedlander cautioned collectors to be certain of the provenance of the items they buy or bid on because there are many fakes and forgeries that are sold by less reputable dealers.

The issue of fakes and forgeries was also a concern of military collector and Indiana Military Museum founder Knox Superior Judge Jim R. Osborne.

Judge Osborne has collected military memorabilia since he was a young child and said that collectors and potential collectors must do their research and not always take things at face value, especially items on Internet auction sites like eBay.

To assist future owners and maintain historical significance, it is important for current owners to keep track of the provenance of an item.

“Even if an item is from a family member of a renowned person, I try to get letters or other proof from the family member to keep on file with those items. It’s important from a curator’s standpoint. It’s easy for me to say that belonged to so and so, but it’s very, very important to keep track of this for the future,” Judge Osborne said.

The Indiana Military Museum was featured in the Dec. 8 – 21, 2010, edition of Indiana Lawyer.

“Authenticity is a big issue,” Judge Friedlander said. “It’s why I only deal with auction houses instead of online. It’s the same for sports memorabilia. Auction houses will verify signatures. They have people who are experts who can authenticate signatures. If you buy online, you’re buying something blindly, I wouldn’t do that. The item may be good or may not be good, but there’s no sure way of knowing.”

The judge’s experience looking for signatures of sports figures helped in seeking out SCOTUS signatures.

“You can go to places that sell autographs, where you can pay a retail value for them,” he said. “You can also sign up for updates from auction houses.”

Judge Friedlander said while at one time he would receive up to 10 catalogs each month, many of the items are now posted online before auctions take place.

“It just takes time and patience,” he said of the collecting process.

One piece that stood out to him was the 1963 letter from Justice Douglas because of its connection to the school now known as Indiana State University. Not only was it an item related to the SCOTUS, but also Indiana.

“I’m pleased that the law school wanted it. … When you collect stuff, you don’t have an exit strategy, for lack of a better term, unless there’s someone in particular who’s interested in your family who expresses an interest in the collection. … Other people can now enjoy it and take a look at it,” Judge Friedlander said.

The school appreciates the collection as well.

“We are honored and delighted that Judge Friedlander chose to donate his collection to the IU Maurer School of Law,” said Dean Lauren Robel. “The collection gives us all an opportunity to feel directly connected to the rich history of the American legal profession.”

Judge Friedlander serves on the IU dean’s advisory board of the College of Arts and Sciences, including as chairman of the committee on directors. He also serves on the board of directors of the Indiana University Foundation, previously chaired its committee on directors, and was a member of the foundation’s executive committee.

Judge Friedlander is a member of the Maurer school’s Academy of Law Alumni Fellows, the highest honor the school can bestow upon its graduates, and he was previously the president of the school’s alumni board. He has also endowed a scholarship at the IU Maurer School of Law.•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.