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House of Representatives Passes Higgins’ Bill to Name Buffalo’s Federal Courthouse for Robert H. Jackson

Jul 23, 2012
Press Release

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Congressman Brian Higgins naming the U.S. courthouse for Robert H. Jackson today. 

 “I am pleased that Buffalo’s federal courthouse will bear the name of Robert H. Jackson, a distinguished legal scholar, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremburg Chief Prosecutor, and Western New Yorker,” said Congressman Higgins. “It is only fitting that this building will stand as a reminder of his lasting legacy in our community and around the world.”
H.R. 3556 was cosponsored by the full, 29-member, bipartisan New York Delegation in the House of Representatives. Passage in the House of Representatives sends this legislation to the U.S. Senate, where Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have introduced companion legislation. Once passed by the Senate, this legislation will go to the White House for the President’s signature.

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The text of Congressman Higgins’ speech in support of the legislation is below:
Mr. Speaker, 

The new federal courthouse in Buffalo opened last November.  It opened to great fanfare, and rightly so because it is a beautiful building that enhances our community and will provide needed space for the crucial work that is done there. 

But the opening of the courthouse was also significant to Western New Yorkers because it did not come easily.  

In the 1990’s federal judges William Skretny and Richard Arcara began to make the case that the Michael Dillon Courthouse in Buffalo was no longer suitable for the growing workload of the Western District of New York.  The U.S. Judicial Conference agreed and they ranked a new courthouse in Buffalo near the top of the list of new facilities it annually sends to Congress.  
Yet judges Skretny and Arcara watched along with the rest of our community as Congress repeatedly passed over Buffalo for other facilities around the country.  But the judges kept fighting, and so did Buffalo.  We finally passed the funding through Congress in 2007 and we now have a magnificent, 10 story structure right on historic Niagara Square that we can be proud of. 

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today would name this new courthouse for Supreme Court Justice, Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Solicitor General and Attorney General Robert H. Jackson.  His is a uniquely Western New York story and a uniquely American story.  
Robert Jackson was raised near Jamestown and spent the first 42 years of his life in Western New York.  For a time he lived on Johnson Park, now in the shadow of the new courthouse, and practiced law in the historic Ellicott Square building.  He would often walk to work from his home, passing the site where our new courthouse now sits.  He was a prominent attorney in the Buffalo bar when he was called to Washington by President Franklin Roosevelt.

As U.S. Solicitor General he argued more than 30 cases before the Supreme Court on which he would later sit.  Louis Brandeis, who was a Supreme Court Justice at the time, said Jackson was so good that he "should be Solicitor General for life."

And as U.S. Attorney General Jackson focused on national security issues as the United States headed toward involvement in World War II.
Robert Jackson served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 13 terms and took part in the landmark decision prohibiting segregation, Brown v. Board of Education.  He is celebrated as among the most accomplished writers in the Court’s history.  Leading constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe called him, “the most piercingly eloquent writer ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

At the request of President Truman, Jackson took a leave of absence from the Court to serve as the Chief Prosecutor of Nazi War Criminals at the International Military Tribunal, commonly known as the “Nuremberg Trials”.  He designed and was the driving force behind this first international trial, bringing Nazi criminals to justice while establishing an important foundation of international law. 
In his oral arguments at Nuremberg, he spoke not only to the assembled tribunal. He spoke to the world…. of the American ideals of justice and freedom.  And of freedom being the essence of man.  And he said America’s history and promise is to help other nations define freedom in their own terms.  Jackson’s oral arguments at Nuremberg are considered among the greatest speeches of the 20th century.

Shortly after the Nuremberg trials concluded Justice Jackson was invited to speak at the University of Buffalo’s Centennial celebration at Kleinhans Music Hall on October 4, 1946. With over 2000 people in attendance, Jackson’s speech was delivered with power and eloquence. 

In it, he said that “education is humanity’s hope,” connecting his work at Nuremberg to the work of the university and he received an honorary degree of doctor of laws from the University of Buffalo.     
The leadership of the Western District of New York has endorsed naming their building in Jackson’s honor. Judge Skretny called him “the most distinguished jurist and most acclaimed legal mind to come out of the Western District.”

Jackson is the only member of the U.S. Supreme Court from Western New York, making this honor especially significant for our community.

I want to thank Chairman Mica and Ranking Member Rahall for bringing this bill to the Floor today. And I would like to thank the Western New York congressional delegation – Kathy Hochul, Louise Slaughter and Tom Reed – and the entire New York delegation including our two senators for their bipartisan and unanimous support of this bill. 

This is a proud day for Western New York and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.