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Reid v. Covert

Time On Covert's Side?

The Supreme Court had acted with unusual speed on Reid and Kinsella. It agreed to hear the cases in March 1956 and decided the cases less than three months later, on the last day of the Court's term. That quickness led to Justice Frankfurter's reservation of a judgment. "Reflection is a slow process," he wrote. "Wisdom, like good wine, requires maturing."

Haste was also on the minds of the three dissenters, Chief Justice Warren and Justices Black and Douglas. They issued this brief statement:

The decisions just announced have far-reaching importance. They subject to military court-martial, even in time of peace, the wives, mothers and children of members of the Armed Forces serving abroad even though these dependents have no connection whatever with the Armed Forces except their kinship to military personnel and their presence abroad. The questions raised are complex, the remedy drastic, and the consequences far-reaching upon the lives of civilians. The military is given new powers not hitherto thought consistent with our scheme of government. For these reasons, we need more time than is available in these closing days of the Term in which to write our dissenting views.

The complexity and seriousness of Reid, perhaps coupled with the concerns over the speed of the deliberations, worked in Covert's favor. She asked for a rehearing of the case, and on 5 November 1956, six justices agreed. The rehearing in 1957 resulted in the Court's deciding that military courts had no jurisdiction over a civilian.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Reid v. Covert - Significance, Two Cases, One Outcome, Time On Covert's Side?