This Month in U.S. Legal History – December

Each month of the year is packed with legal events of historical significance. Here are some of the most memorable and important legal events that have taken place in the U.S. in the month of December over the years.

  • 12/1/1955. Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, leading to a citywide bus boycott by civil rights protesters. The segregation of buses was later held to be unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Browder v. Gayle, 352 U.S. 903 (1956).
  • 12/2/1859. After his trial for murder and treason, anti-slavery activist John Brown is executed.
  • 12/4/1933. As alcohol prohibition comes to an end, President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Federal Alcohol Control Administration by executive order. It lasts less than two years, and its area of authority is now managed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
  • 12/5/1933. The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, ending prohibition by nullifying the 18th Amendment’s ban on the sale of alcohol.
  • 12/6/1865. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, legally ending slavery in the U.S.
  • 12/7/1982. Charlie Brooks, the convicted murderer of David Gregory, is executed via lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. This was the first instance of lethal injection as a means of execution ordered by a U.S. state.
  • 12/9/2000. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, suspends the presidential election vote recount underway in Florida. Days later, in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), the Court orders the recount to be terminated.
  • 12/10/1869. Women in Wyoming are granted the right to vote and hold office.
  • 12/12/1745. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is born.
  • 12/14/1819. Alabama becomes the 22nd state of the United States of America.
  • 12/15/1894. Socialist pioneer Eugene Debs is sentenced to jail time for his role in the Pullman railroad strike.
  • 12/17/1798. The U.S. Senate begins its first impeachment trial. Senator William Blount is the target of the investigation for alleged collaboration with England to help the nation take over Spanish-controlled Florida. The case is ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
  • 12/18/1944. U.S. detention and relocation of Japanese citizens is upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. U.S., 323 U.S. 214 (1944).
  • 12/19/1998. The House of Representatives votes to impeach President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. After a trial in the U.S. Senate, Clinton is acquitted, and remains in office until the end of his term.
  • 12/20/1893. Georgia passes a law making it the first state to specifically ban lynching.
  • 12/22/1807. Congress passes the Embargo Act, making it illegal to trade with foreign nations. Due to the unworkable nature of this law, the Embargo Act is later superseded by the Non-Intercourse Act, barring trade with France and Great Britain only.
  • 12/23/1997. Terry Nichols is convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in connection with his role in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh was convicted earlier that year on June 2.
  • 12/24/1814. The Treaty of Ghent is signed by the U.S. and Great Britain, ending the War of 1812.
  • 12/27/1944. The World Bank is created at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

Missed last month? Check out This Month in U.S. Legal History – November.


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