Dred Scott v. Sandford rehearing planned at School of Law on Feb. 18, Presidents

Dred Scott v. Sandford rehearing planned at School of Law on Feb. 18, Presidents’ Day

In honor of Presidents’ Day on Monday, Feb. 18, the Lawyers’ Council on Social Justice and the University of St. Thomas School of Law will present a mock rehearing of arguments presented in  Dred Scott v. Sandford, an 1857 case holding that "[a] free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a 'citizen' within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States."

Dred Scott

The rehearing will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Frey Moot Courtroom at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Dean Thomas Mengler and Professors Charles Reid and Nekima Levy-Pounds will preside over the rehearing. Professors Robert Delahunty and Teresa Collett will present the arguments of Scott, the slave, and Sandford, the family that owned Scott.

The rehearing is free and open to the public but seating is limited. Those planning to attend are asked to register by sending an e-mail to lawrsvp@stthomas.edu.

Scott v. Sandford centered around Dred Scott, the slave of a Missouri citizen, who traveled with his owner from the slave state of Missouri to the free state of Illinois and later to Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

Scott claimed that the Constitution required that he be considered a free man because of the time he spent in Illinois. The Sandford family argued that property rights in a slave could not be lost by merely crossing state borders. 

Although seven of the nine Supreme Court justices agreed that Scott had no rights under the Constitution, it was Chief Justice Roger Taney's assertion that blacks were “unfit to associate with the white race” and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” that generated furious debate both on the court and among the public in 1857. 

The court's decision often is cited as one of the worst in American history and blamed for inflaming the political divide over slavery which ultimately led to the Civil War.