Archive for March, 2008
March 31, 1927 – Cesar Chavez Born
Cesar Estrada Chavez is born near Yuma, Ariz. Chavez’s family will eventually settle in San Jose, Calif., where local priest Father Donald McDonnell will introduce Chavez to the writings of St. Francis of Assisi and Mohandas Gandhi. In 1962, after working as a migrant farm worker, Chavez will establish the National Farm Workers Association, later the United Farm Workers, and win the right to collective bargaining in California for farm workers. He will campaign for farm workers’ rights until his death in 1993.
March 30, 1870 – Right To Vote Guaranteed
Secretary of State Hamilton Fish certifies the states’ ratification of the 15th Amendment, which prohibits state and federal governments from using a citizen’s color, race or former slave status as a voting qualification. During the next century, literacy tests, poll taxes and other discriminatory voting practices will dampen the amendment’s promise.
March 29, 1951 – Rosenbergs Are Spies
Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage for providing secrets on the construction of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. They will be sentenced to death and executed at New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility in 1953.
March 28, 2000 – ‘Stop And Frisk’ Limited
In Florida v. J.L., the U.S. Supreme Court limits police power to stop and frisk a person. The case involved an anonymous call to the Miami-Dade County Police Department reporting that a youth at a bus stop was armed. The 16-year-old “J.L.” was searched and a gun found. The defense moved to suppress the weapon, arguing that the search was illegal. In a unanimous decision, the court agreed, declaring that “an anonymous tip that a person is carrying a gun is not, without more, sufficient to justify a police officer’s stop and frisk of that person.”
March 27, 2002 – Bush Signs Campaign Reform Act
President George W. Bush signs the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, imposing new limits on federal campaign spending. Under the act, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, "soft money" contributions by unions and corporations to political parties are banned. The act also increases the individual campaign contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000, and limits issue advertising – that which does not directly endorse a candidate — to within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election.
March 26, 1999 – Dr. Jack Kevorkian Convicted of Second-Degree Murder
A Michigan jury finds Dr. Jack Kevorkian guilty of the second degree murder of Thomas Youk, a 53-year old man who was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease and died by lethal injection. The conviction follows a “60 Minutes” airing of a videotape of Dr. Kevorkian assisting in Youk’s death. Kevorkian is sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison; he is released on parole in 2007 based on good behavior.
March 25, 1931 – ‘Scottsboro Boys’ Arrested
In Paint Rock, Ala., nine black teens are charged with the assault and rape of two white women. Less than a month later, they will be convicted and eight will be sentenced to death. Among them, there will be 16 trials and two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Powell v. Alabama (1932) and Norris v. Alabama (1935). They will spend varying amounts of time in prison in a case that will come to symbolize racial injustice in the South.
March 24, 1989- Exxon Valdez Runs Aground in Alaska
The tanker ship Exxon Valdez runs aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The tanker spills 10.9 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, impacting over 1,100 miles of Alaska coastline. The U.S. and Alaska file criminal charges against Exxon Corp., and a class action suit is filed by 32,000 fishermen, Alaska natives, and others whose livelihoods were affected by the disaster. The suits result in an award of over $2.5 billion in civil damages (currently being reviewed on appeal) and Exxon’s payment of over $900 million in criminal fines.
March 23, 1998 – Supreme Court Upholds Term Limits for State Lawmakers
The U.S. Supreme Court allows California’s lawmaker term limits to stand. In refusing to hear an appeal in Bates v. Jones, the Court leaves in place a federal appeals court decision declaring that California’s Proposition 140 term limits were constitutional under the 1st and 14th Amendments. Proposition 140 limits members of the California State Assembly to three 2-year terms and members of the California State Senate to two 4-year terms, while imposing a lifelong ban on candidates’ seeking the same office once the limits have been reached.
March 22, 1972 – Equal Rights Amendment Passed by U.S. Senate
The Equal Rights Amendment is passed by the U.S. Senate, in a 84-8 vote. Section 1 of the amendment states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The amendment is given a seven year time limit for ratification. This deadline will later be extended, but as of the last official tally, 35 states voted to ratify the amendment (three short of the number necessary for ratification).
- Audio: The Women’s Equality Amendment: What Does It Mean and Is It Necessary? (Justice Talking)
- The Equal Rights Amendment (National Organization for Women)
- Civil Rights Center (FindLaw)