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Connecting current events and popular culture with constitutional history

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Rule of Law &
John Marshall


The John Marshall Center for Constitutional History & Civics, founded in 1987 and located at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, preserves and honors John Marshall’s judicial legacy by engaging and educating the public about the rule of law at the crossroads of our Constitution, our classrooms, and our courts.

John Marshall is the longest-serving U.S. chief justice, leading the court for 34 years and shaping it into what it is today, coequal to the executive and legislative branches of government. Marshall’s body of work includes more than 1,000 decisions — more than 500 of which he authored — that consistently uphold the court’s authority to interpret the Constitution and the importance of a strong federal government to our nation’s health. The first of his great cases, Marbury v. Madison in 1803, established the U.S. Supreme Court’s right to expound constitutional law and exercise judicial review, empowering the Supreme Court to declare laws unconstitutional. Marbury still is working for the American people. Look for our new lesson plan built around Marbury’s role in the landmark Brown v. Board decision. Marshall’s most significant gift to the American people — the independent judiciary — is one we must work to ensure for future generations.

We invite you to join us at the Center! Read our digital brochure for a quick overview of our public history programs and partnerships, our civics education program, Justice in the Classroom, our new civics series, PopCiv, our impact, and ways to get involved.

December 2021 Event

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Working toward a more perfect union

December 2, 2021, Marshall Scholar Series program “Decryption Originalism: The Lessons of Burr.REGISTER

During the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr, with Chief Justice John Marshall presiding, the government asked Burr’s private secretary if he knew the cipher to an encrypted letter Burr had sent to a co-conspirator. Burr’s secretary invoked the privilege against self-incrimination, leading to an extensive debate on the meaning of the privilege and an opinion from the Chief Justice. Mobile devices may be the modern equivalent to a cipher letter. Can the government compel someone to unlock or decrypt a phone or digital device? This is the question recently before the Supreme Court and one that Professor Kevin C. Walsh, University of Richmond School of Law, and Professor Orin S. Kerr, UC Berkeley School of Law, will explore. Free for JMC Members, students, teachers, and military; $10 for non-members; $40 for CLE credit* Not a member? Join now!

*CLE credit pending approval

Join Us At The Center digital brochure

Digital Brochure 2021

Impact: JMC By
The Numbers

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Appreciation Report 2018-2020

Civics students


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“American Statesman”