Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Can you hear me, now?

We knew we wanted something distinctive and memorable to make the opening to the Hidden Legal Figures podcast stand out. The podcast is all about hearing from the lawyers and judges who made a heroic and vital contribution to the American story. So, that’s what we decided to do, let you hear them. Listen and see if you can figure who’s who and check the answers below to see how well you know your hidden legal figures!

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The first “voice” in the intro is the Marshal of the United States Supreme Court. When the Court is in session, and as the Justices enter the courtroom at 10:00 a.m., the Marshall announces their arrival with the traditional greeting, “The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!” We used the Oyez! phrase, which in Latin means Hear Ye – a most distinctive way of saying listen up – to announce our figures.

After that comes the voice of Constance Baker Motley speaking from a July 1964 press conference in Atlanta, Georgia discussing the case Willis v. The Pickrick Restaurant, one of the two cases filed to enforce the recently passed Civil Rights Act. When asked by a reporter how she felt about Lester Maddox saying he would not integrate his restaurant, she responds with a sardonic smile and wry chuckle, “Well, that’s why we’re in court, don’t you see!”

Following her is the venerable Thurgood Marshall from a 1955 press conference describing his reaction to southern opposition to Brown v. Board of Education. Most of the southern states had begun to defy the Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Marshall, in his characteristic gruff baritone, reminds the hard-headed that “the decision of the Supreme Court is the law of the land, whether they believed in it or not.”

And last, but certainly not least, is Griffin Bell. He was a lawyer, a federal judge, and Attorney General of the United States. At a 1999 Attorneys General Forum, Bell reminds all that the founders put in place an effective system and warns that “if we can’t trust the system, then we’re in bad shape.”

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Now, that’s definitely worth listening to!

* Special thanks to PYC out of North Carolina for the theme music, Coffee Shop. This up-tempo jazzy riff would make Herb Alpert nod with approval. (Check out more of PYC at PYCMusic).


View posts by derrickalexanderpope
President and Managing Director of The Arc of Justice Institute and host of the Hidden Legal Figures podcast.

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