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

1 May 1884The eight-hour work day proclaimed to be in place across the United States.

2 May 1972Former head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, dies.  

3 May 1948In Shelley v Kraemer the Supreme Court upheld the legality of covenants that prohibited real estate from being sold to African Americans and other minorities.

4 May 1970Four students are killed by the Ohio National Guard during protests against the government’s Cambodian campaign in the Vietnam War at Kent State University.

5 May 1809Mary Kies is the first woman in the U.S. to be awarded a patent. She had pioneered a unique weaving technique.

6 May 1882President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Act prohibited Chinese from being given U.S. citizenship, and barred Chinese workers from entering the U.S.

7 May 1992The 27th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. The Amendment prohibits Congress from giving pay rises to its members in the middle of a term.

8 May 1884The man who was to become 33rd President of the United States, Harry S Truman, was born.

9 May 1974Impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon commence. Led by Rep. Peter Rodino, the hearings related to Nixon’s connections to the Watergate scandal.

10 May 1893The Supreme Court in the decision Nix v Hedden rules that, for the purposes of the Tariff Act of 1883, a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit.

11 May 1910Congress passes an Act to establish the Glacier National Park in Montana.

12 May 1949The new Basic Law of Germany is approved by the Allied powers as the new constitution for Germany. The Basic Law continues to govern Germany today.

13 May 1966The U.S. Government decides to respond to states violating the Civil Rights Act 1964 by refusing to fund 12 segregated school districts in the South.

14 May 1787Delegates meet in Philadelphia to attend a Constitutional Convention and draft the new Constitution for the United States.

15 May 1911In Standard Oil Co of New Jersey v U.S., the Supreme Court held that Standard Oil was in violation of the Sherman Act and ordered that the company be dissolved.

16 May 1918The Sedition Act of 1918 is passed by Congress, making it an offence to criticize the government during times of war. It was repealed less than two years later.

17 May 1954US Supreme Court hands down its decision in Brown v Board of Education, overturning the ‘separate but equal doctrine’ and declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. Racial segregation was held to violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

18 May 1896The decision in the landmark constitutional law case Plessy v Ferguson is handed down by the Supreme Court. The Court upheld laws that segregated public facilities on the basis of race, using the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’.

19 May 2004Specialist Jeremy C Sivits is given a years imprisonment and is discharged for bad conduct by a court-martial following the Abu Ghraib prison abuses.

20 May 1996The Supreme Court decision in Romer v Evans holds that a state constitutional amendment in Colorado that prevented protected status on the basis of homosexuality or bisexuality violated the Equal Protection Clause.

21 May 1934Oskaloosa, in Iowa, fingerprints all its citizens – the first municipality in the U.S. to do so.

22 May 1947The Truman doctrine is enacted and Congress begins to appropriate economic and military assistance for Turkey and Greece.

23 May 1788South Carolina ratifies the US Constitution – becoming the eighth state to do so.

24 May 2002 Russia and the U.S. sign the Moscow Treaty, whereby both countries agreed to reduce their strategic arms and nuclear arsenal.

25 May 2006 The two men who were chief executives of Enron during the rise and collapse of the company – Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling – are found guilty of fraud and conspiracy.

26 May 1868President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial comes to an end, with the Senate one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him.

27 May 1935A key part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal plan, the National Industrial Recovery Act, is rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because its regulation of the poultry industry were an invalid use of the commerce power.

28 May 1830President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, allowing the forceful exchange of Indian lands in the Southeast for land owned by the federal government in the West.

29 May 1917John F. Kennedy is born. He went on to become 35th President of the United States, and was assassinated in 1963.

30 May 1997Jesse K. Timmendequas is convicted for raping and strangling a 7-year old girl. The case led to ‘Megan’s Law’ which required that communities be given notice if a sex offender moves into the area.

31 May 1790The Copyright Act of 1790 is enacted, becoming the first copyright statute for the U.S.