Phillips, Leroy, Jr. 1935-
PHILLIPS, Leroy, Jr. 1935-
PERSONAL: Born 1935. Education: Earned law degree.
ADDRESSES: Home—Chattanooga, TN. Office—Phillips & Caputo, 312 Vine St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; fax: 423-266-1547.
CAREER: Phillips & Caputo, Chattanooga, TN, trial attorney.
AWARDS, HONORS: Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 2000, for Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism.
(With Mark Curriden) Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: In Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism, trial attorney Leroy Phillips, Jr. and coauthor Mark Curriden provide in-depth and expert analysis ofUnited States v. Shipp. This obscure, nearly one-hundred-year-old U.S. Supreme Court case not only redefined the role of the high court itself, but also strongly advanced ideas of civil rights and racial equality in early-twentieth-century America.
In the book Phillips recounts the case, beginning in 1906 when Ed Johnson, a young black man, was falsely accused of raping a white woman in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The narrative describes an unjust trial riddled with judicial manipulation and misconduct following which Johnson was condemned to be hanged. Johnson's case was then taken by two black lawyers, Noah Parden and Styles Hutchins, who appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal and issued a stay of execution. Before the appeal could proceed, however, a mob dragged Johnson from his cell, beat him, lynched him from a bridge, and shot him repeatedly. Sheriff Joseph Shipp did not intervene, and even made it easier for the mob by removing guards in the jail where Johnson was held. Local authorities refused to press charges or identify any member of the lynch mob.
Because these events played out in direct defiance of an order by the U.S. Supreme Court, for the first—and to date the only—time in its history, the high court put individuals on trial for contempt of court. The trial resulted in convictions against Sheriff Shipp, a deputy, and several members of the lynch mob. Sentences were light, consisting of prison terms of sixty to ninety days.
Although relatively minor punishments were dispensed, United States vs. Shipp struck an early blow in favor of racial equality and against miscarriage of justice. The case "represented the first time in the long, sordid history of U.S. race relations that lynchers were identified, tried, and found guilty," stated Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush. In addition, the case established the Supreme Court as the ultimate court of appeal in the United States and created a precedent for federal jurisdiction over state courts in such cases.
Randall Kennedy, writing in American Lawyer, called Contempt of Court "fast-paced, richly detailed, well-written, and deeply moving. It makes arcane legal issues accessible to non-lawyers but is also a book that lawyers will enjoy and benefit from reading." A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that the book succeeds both as legal analysis and as "a dramatic story, written with novelistic flair, of a few brave individuals who refused to be cowed by mob rule."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, May, 2000, Jon Bauman, review of Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism, p. 28.
American Bar Association Journal, October, 1999, Lisa Stansky, review of Contempt of Court, pp. 82-83.
American Lawyer, February, 2000, Randall Kennedy, review of Contempt of Court, pp. 49-51.
Arizona Attorney, July, 2000, Tom Baker, review of Contempt of Court, p. 12.
Arkansas Lawyer, spring, 2000, Harry Truman Moore, review of Contempt of Court, pp. 10-11.
Booklist, September, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of Contempt of Court, p. 40.
Emerge, October, 1999, Mary Frances Berry, "The High Price for Equal Protection," pp. 69-70.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Jim G. Burns, review of Contempt of Court, p. 115.
Nation, December 10, 2001, Russell Neufeld, "The Rope and the Law," p. 28.
National Law Journal, March 20, 2000, Elizabeth Amon, "Fighting for a Client Who Was Lynched 94 Years Ago," p. A14.
New York Times Book Review, March 12, 2000, Allen D. Boyer, review of Contempt of Court, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, August 2, 1999, review of Contempt of Court, p. 65.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 26, 2000, "Judge Overturns Rape Conviction of Black Man Lynched in 1906," p. 13.
Santa Clara Law Review, fall, 2000, John B. Gates, review of Contempt of Court, pp. 1215-1217.
Tennessee Bar Journal, February, 2000, Donald F. Paine, review of Contempt of Court, p. 27.
Trial, February, 2001, Michael Mello, review of Contempt of Court, p. 86.
Law and Politics Book Review Online, http://www.bsos.umd.edu/ (January, 2000), Daniel Hoffman, review of Contempt of Court.*