Sunday, July 1, 2007

Suffolk attorney passes away - won important case in the United States Supreme Court

Herman T. Benn passed away last week. His obituary noted that Mr. Benn was co-counsel in a winning case before the United States Supreme Court, Johnson v. Commonwealth of Virginia. In that case, a college student, Ford T. Johnson, was charged with a traffic violation. At trial, Mr. Johnson sat in the section of the courtroom reserved for "whites." He refused to comply with the court's order to move to the section reserved for "Negroes." The court charged Mr. Johnson with contempt and he was convicted. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals refused to hear the writ, so the case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction stating "State-compelled segregation in a court of justice is a manifest violation of the State's duty to deny no one the equal protection of its laws." I didn't know Mr. Benn, but that victory is an important and lasting legacy for him.

*Postscript - I found this article discussing the day Mr. Benn and his wife closed their law practice.