[eDebate] Landmark as a limiting term

Joe Miller gobodog
Wed May 24 07:09:16 CDT 2006

II know I'm kind of an outsider, but I can't resist responding to this
and Ede's previous e-mail. (Besides, I'm hoping to debate at KU's
tournament, so maybe that gives me a bit of a right.)

I would strongly encourage you to word the topic so as to allow a
discussion of desegregation law. It opens up an absolutely fascinating
body of literature. It has shaped our communities more than any other
area of law, in my opinion (and I mean literally; like KC is laid out
the way it is because, in many ways, of deseg). I can understand how
some might be uncomfortable debating whether or not to uphold Brown,
but there are several lesser known cases that came about as a result
of brown that have had enormous impact on American society.

The "landmark" decisions:

Millikin v. Bradley I, 1974 --  "stipulated that a school district had
to be shown to have acted illegally to infringe on the constitutional
rights of minority students. This meant that an all-white district was
not under any legal obligation to join an inter-district desegregation
plan as long as it itself did not practice segregation within its own

Millikin v. Bradley II, 1977 -- "imposing 'compensatory' education
policies to correct the inequities of... a (segregated) system."

Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, 1991 -- "allowed a
school district that had been complying with desegregation court
orders for several years to achieve 'unitary status.' Such a district
could be released from the obligations of those court orders, even to
return to neighborhood schools."

Jenkins v. Missouri, 1995 -- Which, in my read of history, pretty much
ended the era of deseg in this country. (At any right, Clarence
Thomas's concurring opinion is easily the most interesting court
document I have ever read; despite its frank attack on affirmative
action, it has been upheld by some folks I know and respect as a
classic work in the cannon of black nationalist writings.)

Lastly, I can think of no more timely debate than one over the 1973
decision in San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, where the "Court
held that education is not a fundamental right under the United States

Meditate on that one for a second. Education is not a fundamental right.

This decision is fueling a fight going on right now in almost every
state in the union, where there are court cases going on challenging
the distribution of education funds between separate school districts.

To be more blunt: At this juncture in history the question is no
longer, "Was Brown v. Board right?" Brown is dead. The question now
is, "Should we, or can we live up to Plessy v Ferguson?"

All best,

Joe Miller

On 5/23/06, Ede Warner <ewarner at louisville.edu> wrote:
> On a different note, when we first discussed the possibility of a courts
> topic several years ago, it was sold as debates over "landmark" cases on big
> cases.  We have again slowly moved away from that, in part with the Roe
> discussion and in part because of the way we analyze topics guided by our
> competitive equity measures.
> Forget PICs, forget topicality, forget areas versus lists.  What if we had a
> topic with 3-5 of the biggest, most landmark cases ever?  I asked my wife to
> pick five landmark cases off the top of her head:  she picked Roe, Grutter
> (Mich aff axn), Brown, then stopped.  I'd add Korematsu, Bakke, and perhaps
> TLO vs NJ.
> Any smaller cases that cut precedent, still have to deal with symbolic
> advantages and their value as uniqueness arguments gets limited for the same
> reasons:  neg could make signal arguments (that the smaller case the aff is
> using for uniqueness didn't kick the DA in because it wasn't noticed outside
> of the courts, but overturning Korematsu would)--didn't know I could use
> these terms anymore, did you?
> A quick non-lexus search for landmark cases produces a lot of sites.
> http://www.landmarkcases.org/ is one used to teach students about landmark
> cases.
> The list has Korematsu, Brown, Mapp v Ohio, Roe, US v Nixon, Bakke, and NJ
> vs TLO, just to name a few.  Anyone in debate for the last 20 years won't
> need much discussion of these.  Pick 4-8 in different areas and role with
> it.  If you like areas, put something together with the terms precedent and
> landmark to limit it to these cases.
> * Why isn't landmark a potential limiting term?  For those of you into it,
> there could be great topicality debates again...We could debate frivilous
> uses of the term versus more defined and field contextual uses.
> If there was ever a chance to keep it simple and engage some of the most
> important debates of our time, this seems to be it.  I caution against
> overthinking the competitive equity issues to the point of moving away from
> the true precedent setting cases.  This seems like something the committee
> should stay conscious about.
> Sincerely,
> Ede
> Ede Warner, Jr.
> Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
> University of Louisville
> 308E Strickler Hall
> 502-852-3522
> e0warn01 at gwise.louisville.edu
> http://comm.louisville.edu/~debate
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