Marshall's Paper Trail

Article excerpt

THE recent release of the late Thurgood Marshall's private papers by the Library of Congress, and the subsequent publication of excerpts in several newspapers, has raised a storm of criticism from his friends, family, and several former colleagues on the United States Supreme Court.

The documents are said to provide a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the high court on important contemporary issues: abortion, criminal and civil rights, and cases affecting homosexuals. The more than 173,000 pages of documents are said to reinforce the image of justices who put a lot of work, energy, even anguish into their decisions.

The papers' insights into the current court's inner workings are an obvious motivation for making the papers public so soon after his death in January. This caught critics of the move off guard. Yet Justice Marshall's contract with the Library, which he signed on Oct. 24, 1991, said that after his death, "the Collection shall be made available to the public at the discretion of the Library." The contract also says, "Use of the materials constituting this gift shall be limited to private study on the premises of the Library by researchers or scholars engaged in serious research." The Library's action falls within a reasonable interpretation of the contract. …