Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

By Gerald T. Dunne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
Symbols of an Age

A MATTER OF COPYRIGHT

In addition to writing his commentaries and changing the content and character of legal education, Story used one other weapon to blunt the thrust of the codification movement. This was the judicial opinion, wherein he turned a venerable document of the law into a modernized technique of judicature. For what Story did was to take what had been a terse and often obscure memorandum of a decision in a particular dispute and change it into a comprehensive and systematic exposition of whatever law bore on the point in question. Thus, each such expression of his views, particularly in important cases, was not so much an award of an individual judgment as a codification in miniature.

To be sure, this transformation was not exclusively Story's wo, but he played a critical and decisive role in it, and, moreover, he was well aware of the didactic value of his product ("...do not omit to have your decisions reported," he advised a fledgling judge 1). He was also aware of its financial value. His involvement in both aspects had run from an ambitious program to

____________________
1
Letter to Joseph Hopkinson, Dec. 16, 1828, in Burton A. Konkle, Joseph Hopkinson ( Philadelphia, 1931), 260.

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