Blackmun Papers Offer Behind-the-Robes Look at Supreme Court


The personal papers of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun reveal a remarkable evolution during his 24-year tenure from a conservative-leaning member of a rather liberal court to a liberal member of a more conservative court, reports National Public Radio and the New York Times.

The papers were made public Thursday, five years after Blackmun’s death. NPR’s Nina Totenberg and Linda Greenhouse of the Times were given exclusive advance access to the documents.

Blackmun left a collection of more than a half-million letters, notes, memos and journals that provide a fuller portrait of him and offer insights into the life of the court during the last quarter of the 20th century.

After retiring in 1994, he gave the papers to the Library of Congress on the condition that they remain closed for five years after his death. That unusually short period allows the public to learn his views of colleagues still on the bench, something justices do not often permit, says the Times.


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