The Supreme Court of Maryland held a Special Session on October 26, 2023, for the posthumous bar admission of Edward Garrison Draper, the earliest known individual found fully qualified to practice law in Maryland, but who was denied the privilege of doing so based on his race. The recording of the proceedings can be seen here.
Per the Supreme Court of Maryland: On October 29, 1857, Mr. Draper—a graduate of Dartmouth who had studied the law for more than two years under the guidance of a Maryland attorney—presented himself for examination for admission to the Maryland Bar before Baltimore Superior Court Judge Zachaeus Collins Lee. After the examination, Judge Lee found Mr. Draper to be “qualified in all respects to be admitted to the Bar in Maryland,” except that he was not white. Mr. Draper was thus precluded from practicing law in Maryland based exclusively on the color of his skin.
On March 27, 2023, at this court’s invitation, Hon. John G. Browning, retired Justice of Texas’ Fifth Court of Appeals, Maryland attorney Domonique A. Flowers, and University of Baltimore School of Law Professor José F. Anderson filed a petition for Mr. Draper’s posthumous admission to the Maryland Bar. The Supreme Court will act on that petition during the October 26 Special Session.
“The Supreme Court of Maryland thanks Justice Browning, Mr. Flowers, and Professor Anderson for bringing Mr. Draper’s story to our attention,” said Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader. “The Court looks forward to acting on their petition and further highlighting the legacy of Mr. Draper and others who were wrongly denied the ability to practice law.”
Justice Browning outlined Mr. Draper’s story and the eventual integration of the Maryland Bar decades later in his law review article titled, “To Fight the Battle, First You Need Warriors: Edward Garrison Draper, Everett Waring, and the Quest for Maryland’s First Black Lawyer.”
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