100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Joshua DeShaney

Joshua DeShaney

The Limits of the Law

“They Stood by and Did Nothing”

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services 489 U.S. 189 (1989)

Most of the essays in this volume are about individuals who went to court because they actively sought to remedy a perceived injustice, or they had allegedly committed a crime and wanted to prove their innocence. What about Joshua DeShaney—“Poor Joshua!”—as Justice Harry Blackmun cried out in his dissent? For here it is clear that, despite the terrible things done to him, young Joshua DeShaney did not receive the justice many believed due to him, because the type of remedy he sought lay beyond what the Supreme Court said the law could provide.

Unlike people who had a long and event-filled life before ...

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