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How Federal Judges Use and Abuse the Words of Martin Luther King Jr. in Their Decisions

Republican-appointed judges attempt to lay claim to moral legitimacy by invoking MLK.

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7. Schultz v. Medina Valley Independent School District (2012), Knuckles v. Prasse (1969).

8. In one of these cases,  Bergman v. U.S. (1988), King himself had spoken about the subject of the case, a Southern mob beating up Freedom Riders; beatings the plaintiffs alleged the FBI could have stopped but didn't. The panel quoted King and ruled for the plaintiffs:

Among the many sobering lessons that we can learn from the events of the past week is that the Deep South will not impose limits upon itself. The limits must be imposed from without. Unless the federal government acts forthrightly in the South to assure every citizen his constitutional rights, we will be plunged into a dark abyss of chaos.

Jeremiah Goulka's writing has appeared in the American Prospect and Salon. He was formerly an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him at His website is

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