In the beauty of the poppies
The poet was born across the sea
With an anthem in his bosom
That transfigured law and thee
As he wrote to make life holy
Let us read to set law free
The truth is marching on
Or, in somewhat more prosaic terms . . . .
In recognition of Black History Month and the Black Law Student Association's commemorative page, and in furtherance of the University of Louisville Law Review's recent symposium, The Future of School Integration in America: The Supreme Court Decision in Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, I offer this abstract of Poetic Justice, 28 Cardozo L. Rev. 581 (2006):
All deliberate speed, the remedial formula adopted in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (1955), has a singularly interesting literary lineage. Contrary to Justices Holmes and Frankfurter's assumption, all deliberate speed is not a phrase from the traditional language of the English Chancery, but rather a variant on a line from an 1893 poem by Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. How Thompson's line, "Deliberate speed, majestic instancy," came to dominate one of the defining moments in American constitutional law represents a unique instance of not law-in-literature or law-as-literature, but literature-as-law. By turning our analysis away from the romanticized origins of all deliberate speed in a Chancery practice that never existed and toward the real poetry of Francis Thompson, we may glimpse how all deliberate speed and the Brown litigation achieved a measure of poetic justice. Brown II's instruction that public school districts dismantle desegregation with all deliberate speed gave Brown I's vision of equal justice under law enough time and enough legitimacy to enter the hearts and minds of the American people in a way unlikely ever to be undone.
Poetic Justice was distributed in the inaugural issue of the University of Louisville Legal Studies Series. The Cardinal Lawyer offers more information about this series and how you can subscribe to it.