“John Marshall” should be expunged from the name of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law! Our nation needs a new reconstruction, and Cleveland State University needs to take a step towards the right side of history. Move to Amend and me as Outreach Director are among the signatories to this letter


October 26, 2020

Dear Dean Fisher:

Would you attend a “Roger Taney School of Law”? Or a school named for the man who wrote the Dred Scott majority opinion declaring that “the negro has no rights which white men are bound to respect”? A laughably racist notion. And yet many generations of students of Cleveland’s public law school have done much the same. For Cleveland-Marshall is named after a Virginian slave lord who owned 200 slaves and at one point auctioned off some of them to pay off his son’s debts.

Cleveland and its public law school’s alumni and alumnae did not know that their namesake was on the wrong side of history. How could they, given the extent to which John Marshall’s previous biographers whitewashed his slaveholding? Everybody knew that Dred Scott was wrong. But it seemed an historical anomaly. Who knew that the infamous casewas the culmination of the Court’s racist patterns that Marshall had set?

During his 34 years on the Court (1801 – 35) Chief Justice Marshall heard roughly 50 cases involving slavery. His jurisprudence was always proslavery, even when legal precedents favored the Black litigant. Nor did public policy, insofar as it supported Black freedom, ever persuade him to rule for the Negro. He always ruled as we would expect a man with massive investments in human beings to rule.   

John Adams said that ours is “a government of laws and not of men.” We the People replaced the divine right of kings with the rule of law. Alexander Hamilton stated a relevant legal maxim while discussing federal courts: “No man ought certainly to be a judge in his own cause, or in any cause in respect to which he has the least interest or bias.” In other words, no “conflicts of interest” on the bench.

John Marshall systematically judged in his own slaveholding cause. His conflict of interest is clear. The “Great Chief Justice” thus betrayed our nation’s trust. Moreover, his proslavery jurisprudence set the paradigm of institutional racism in America’s courts that persists to this day.

Understand: George Floyd is a martyr to the institutional racism that has metastasized in the 185 years since Marshall left the bench. As our nation reckons with its legacy of slavery, we must come to terms with history books that have censored the slave-trafficking of many “founding fathers.” We call for a new semantic order not to erase history. For when Cleveland State University disavows “John Marshall,” it will make history.

Our nation needs a new reconstruction. Yet and still three of our nation’s law schools are named “John Marshall.” CSU will not bring about a paradigm shift, from institutional racism to “equal justice under law,” when it renames its law school. But CSU will take one long step towards the right side of history.


Molly Andrews-Hinders, Artistic Associate at Cleveland Public Theatre

Brian Bardwell, Attorney at Chandra Law Firm

Eva May Barrett, Cleveland resident

Robert S. Belovich, Attorney and Cleveland-Marshall Class of 1976

Dana Beveridge, Attorney and Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2019

Greg Coleridge, Outreach Director, Move To Amend Coalition

McClellon Cox, Esq.

Robert Dinkins Jr., Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2023

Miguel Eaton, Esq.

Dallas Eckman, Public School Teacher, Cuyahoga County

Nivi Engineer, SAJE Organizer

Emily Forsee, Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2023

Margot Frazier, Public School Teacher, Cuyahoga County

Ann Ghazy, Dept. Assistant, CWRU University Technology

Jacqueline Greene, Partner at Friedman & Gilbert

Kareem Henson, Black Lives Matter Cleveland

B. Jessie Hill, Associate Dean for Research and Development, Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law, CWRU School of Law

Rebecca Joseph, Board member, Jewish Federation of Cleveland

Hanna Kassis, Rename John Marshall

Madeleine Keller, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Amanda King, Shooting Without Bullets

Lisa Kollins, Administrator, CWRU Schubert Center for Child Studies

Raymond Ku, Professor of Law, Laura B. Chisholm Distinguished Research Scholar, CWRU School of Law

James Levin, Founder and Director of LegalWorks

Terry J. Lodge, Esq.

Christopher McNeal, Attorney and Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2017

Cleophus Miller Jr., President-General UNIA-ACL and former Cleveland Brown

David B. Miller, Associate Professor, Director of International Education Programs, CWRU Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

Tish O’Dell, CELDF Organizer

Frank Marvin Perkins, Cleveland State University College of Sciences and Health Professions Class of 1991

L.S. Quinn, Reading Room Cleveland

Terrance Rounds, Retired Public School Teacher, Cuyahoga County

Libby Rutherford, Public School Teacher, Cuyahoga County

Alyssa Sidelka, Attorney and Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2016

Robert Strassfeld, Professor of Law, CWRU School of Law

Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, Co-Director, IRTF Cleveland

Taru Taylor, City of Cleveland tax-payer

Jameson Tibbs, Midwest Regional Chair National BLSA and Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2021

Brooke Tyus, Attorney at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aranoff LLP

Black Belt Chess Academy

Black Lives Matter Cleveland

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus

Friedman and Gilbert

InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia (IRTF Cleveland)

Latinos Unidos for Black Lives

Move To Amend 

Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

Puncture the Silence

South Asians for Justice and Equity

Standing Up for Racial Justice, Northeast Ohio Chapter

Standing Up for Racial Justice, Ohio Chapter 

The Coalition to Stop the Inhumanity at the Cuyahoga County Jail

The Reading Room CLE

Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities League


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