Day-By-Day Walk Through US Legal History: December

1 December 1955Rosa Parks was arrested after she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man. This action culminated in the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the eventual overturning of bus segregation laws in Montgomery.

2 December 1865Alabama became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, thus giving the Amendment the three-fourths majority it needed to come into law. The amendment abolished the practice of slavery.

3 December 1818Illinois was admitted to the Union as the 21st state.

4 December 1945The US Senate approved the full participation of the US in the United Nations.

5 December 1933The state of Utah ratifies the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, and brings prohibition to an end in the U.S. The Amendment required the accession of 36 states, and Utah was the final state to ratify it.

6 December 1933In United States v One Book Called Ulysses, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that the book Ulysses, by James Joyce, was not obscene.

7 December 1941An American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by Imperial Japan. Later that day, Canada declared was on Japan, and the US followed suit on 8 December.

8 December 1993President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law.

9 December 2000The US Supreme Court voted 5-4 to suspend a recount that was taking place in Florida for Presidential election results. Later, in Bush v Gore the Court found that the entire recount was unconstitutional.

10 December 1948The UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This set the basis for an international human rights framework insisting that all human beings are inherently entitled to the same rights.

11 December 1816Indiana became the 19th state in the Union.

12 December 2000 The Supreme Court decided in the case Bush v Gore that the vote certification for Florida’s 25 electoral votes in the 2000 election should be allowed to stand. Although the Court found that the Equal Protection Clause had been violated through different counting standards in different counting, they also held that there was not sufficient time to do anything about it.

13 December 2001President George W. Bush served formal notice that the United States was withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.

14 December 1964In Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc v United States the Supreme Court held that Congress could use the commerce power granted to it under the constitution to force private businesses to adhere to the Civil Rights Act 1964.

15 December 1791The Virginia General Assembly ratifies the US Bill of Rights, and the Bill became law.

16 December 1950President Truman declared a state of emergency across the US in order to fight the threat of “Communist imperialism” after China joined the Korean War.

17 December 1789The first impeachment trial in the US begins. Senator William Blount of Tennessee was a land speculator, and he was accused of conspiring with England to snatch Florida from Spain.

18 December 1944In Korematsu v United States, the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the exclusion order that forced Japanese Americans into internment camps during WWII.

19 December 1998Impeachment proceedings for US President Bill Clinton were initiated by the House of Representatives, amidst charges were of perjury and obstruction of justice.

20 December 1893Lynching was outlawed in the state of Georgia, the first state in the Union to pass a law to outlaw the practice.

21 December 1956Montgomery, Alabama, started offering racially-integrated bus services after racial segregation laws were overturned by the Supreme Court.

22 December 1807Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807, under the stewardship of President Jefferson, who feared that America would be compelled to enter the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The Act barred trade with any foreign nation.

23 December 2003Lee Boyd Malvo, also known as ‘The Beltway Sniper’ and ‘The DC Sniper’, was convicted for murder and sentenced by a jury to multiple sentences of life imprisonment without pardon.

24 December 2009The US Senate passes the legislation that would form the basis of Obamacare – the biggest expansion of America’s social safety net since 1965. The Senate voted after debating the bill for 25 consecutive days.

25 December 1868President Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional, blanket pardon to all Confederate soldiers and officers.  

26 December 1862The largest mass hanging in the US took place in Mankato, Minnesota where 38 Santee Sioux braves were hanged for their part in rebellions against authorities in Minnesota.

27 December 1771William Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He went on to become Associate Justice of the Supreme Court at the appointment of President Jefferson, where he served from 1804 to 1834.

28 December 1973The Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Nixon – setting up a legislative framework to adhere to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

29 December 1845Texas is admitted to the Union as the 28th state – meaning that the Republic of Texas was formally annexed to the US.

30 December 1816The Treaty of St. Louis (1816) between the US and the united Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi Indian tribes is proclaimed. By signing the treaty, the tribes relinquished all rights or claims to land previously ceded to the US, and also ceded a strip of land for the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

31 December 1946President Harry Truman officially declared the end of hostilities in World War II – Presidential Proclamation 2714 was delayed for several months after the fighting finished in September 1945 because it gave the US an excuse to continue to keep troops in Japan and Germany.