Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens

By Hansen, Stephen | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens


Hansen, Stephen, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


Illinois justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens. By Kenneth A. Manaster. Foreword by Justice John Paul Stevens. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. Pp. xv, 317. Photographs, bibliography, index. $27.50)

Illinois politics in the middle of the 20th century was rough and colorful, punctuated by scandal and corruption that ranged from Paul Powell's infamous "shoebox" to Otto Kerner's imprisonment. Kenneth Manaster has written an interesting and valuable book that contributes to our understanding of this turbulent period. Through his study of the investigation and eventual resignation of two Illinois Supreme Court Justices in 1969, Manaster gives us a peek into some of the sordid details of Illinois politics.

In February 1969, Sherman Skolnick, a self-appointed Chicago crusader and local gadfly, began investigating the stockholders of the Civic Center Bank & Trust Company. In June, he publicly accused Illinois Chief Justice Roy J. Solfisburg and Associate Justice Ray I. Klingbiel of accepting stock in the bank from Theodore Isaacs, Chicago lawyer and Democratic Party power broker, in exchange for a ruling to vacate a judgement against Isaacs. The Alton Evening Telegraph and Chicago Daily News began investigating Skolnik's charges of corruption, and the public soon demanded action. The Illinois Legislature appointed a special committee to investigate, but under Illinois Law, the Supreme Court had the authority to examine judicial impropriety through the Courts Commission. In mid-June, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed a Special Commission with a charge to report by the end of July on the "integrity of the judgment" in the Supreme Court's ruling on People v. Isaacs.

Having served as one of the lawyers on the Special Commission's staff, Kenneth Manaster, currently a professor of law at Santa Clara University, brings special insight into his well researched book on the investigation of Chief Justice Roy J. Solfisburg Jr. and Associate Justice Ray I. Klingbiel. Using court records, interviews, and correspondence with the participants, Manaster provides a taut account of the "Scandal of 1969." He carefully unfolds the tedium, hard work, dead ends, and frustrations of the Special Commission's investigation. With a certain dramatic flare, Manaster depicts the colorful personalities surrounding the Scandal; the "imperious" Albert E. Jenner, of Watergate fame, the "eccentric" Skolnick, the "formidable presence" of Solfisburg, and the "unquestioned integrity and talent" of John Paul Stevens.

John Paul Stevens receives special attention from Manaster. Indeed, one of the principal purposes of the book is to explain the rise to prominence of John Paul Stevens. According to Manaster, Steven's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court can be attributed in part to the reputation he earned as Chief Counsel to the Special Commission. Equally significant, Manaster contends, Justice Steven's experience on the Special Commission "distinctly shaped" his later work on the bench. …

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