Powell Jr., Lewis F.


Signed 1979 Slip Opinion authored by Justice Powell in a case involving limits to reasonable accommodations for a persons with disabilities


Type: Signed Slip Opinion
Description: (1908-1998) Associate Justice 1972-88, amongst his notable opinions was his 1978 majority opinion in University of California Regents v. Bakke, the Court’s 1st major statement on the constitutionality of affirmative action. He compiled a conservative record on the Court and cultivated a reputation as a swing vote with a penchant for compromise. He notably joined the majority in cases such as US v. Nixon and Roe v. Wade, amongst others.

He was a partner for over a quarter century at Hunton, Williams, Gay, Powell and Gibson (now, Hunton & Williams LLP), its primary office in Richmond. He was President of the ABA 1964-65 and led the way in attempting to provide legal services to the poor, and made a key decision to cooperate with the US government’s Legal Services Program. On Aug. 23, 1971, before accepting Nixon’s nomination to the Court, Powell wrote a confidential memorandum titled “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,” a blueprint for conservative business interests. It called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society’s thinking about business, government, politics and law in the US. It became the blueprint of the rise of the US conservative movement and the formation of a network of influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation, as well as inspiring the US Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active. Its real contribution was its emphasis on institution-building, particularly updating the Chamber’s efforts to influence federal policy. Nixon nominated Powell and William Rehnquist to the Court on the same day, Oct. 21, 1971. Powell was confirmed Dec. 7, 1971 and began his service on Jan. 7, 1972. In 1990, Douglas Wilder asked Powell to swear him in as governor of Virginia, the 1st US African-American governor. In 1993, Congress renamed the Federal courthouse at Richmond in his honor.

15pp 9 x 5 ¾ Slip Opinion issued by The Supreme Court on June 11 1979, syllabus for Southeastern Community College v. Davis decision argued April 23 1979, the opinion for the Court written by Justice Powell who signs on the 1st page at top right. Signed Slip Opinions are most uncommon.

Southeastern Community College v. Davis was a 1979 US Supreme Court case, the plaintiff a hearing-impaired student who, after being denied access to the school’s nursing department, sued claiming violations of the 14th Amendment and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Davis was a Southeastern Community College student with a hearing impairment at, applied for the nursing program. Her hearing was very poor and she relied mostly on lip-reading, even with a hearing aid. Even with a hearing aid she would only be able to dictate speech when someone spoke directly to her. The Executive Director of the State Board of Nursing decided that it would not be safe for her to be a student in the program or to be a nurse. It was also decided that accommodations she would need would stop her from fully benefiting from the program. Her request that the Board review the application once again was denied. After the 2nd attempt, Davis sued. The US District Court decided that because Davis was not able to work adequately as a nurse, she was not protected under Section 504, which states that a person must be able to perform all duties of a job, despite their disability. The US Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision by pointing to recent administrative regulations regarding §504 promulgated while Davis’s appeal was pending. The Supreme Court reversed the Fourth Circuit, holding that the ability to hear was crucial in a nurse’s daily work, and the necessary accommodations that the program would need to provide for Davis were beyond what §504 requires. Southeastern Community College vs Davis was a landmark case because it helped define the outlines of §504 regarding reasonable accommodations and what accommodations would drastically impact a program. It was the 1st case that brought attention to §504 and now any program does not have to make changes that would affect the core of the program or that would have an unnecessary financial burden.

Condition: Very good

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