Chief Justice Roger Taney’s 1857 opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford has justifiably been called the worst single decision of the United States Supreme Court, and in the years since the opinion was published it has been repudiated repeatedly. The very name of the case now serves as a shorthand epithet to condemn any new court decision of which one disapproves, as in: “It’s the new Dred Scott!” What, exactly, did the Supreme Court decide – and who cares? What did Dred Scott set in motion, and what does its legacy mean for us today?
WALLACE R. HOGGATT is serving in his twenty-second year as a superior court judge in Cochise County. As a child growing up in Los Angeles, he attended First Unitarian Church on Vermont and Eighth Street. He has been a member of this congregation since 2008.