A new film on the life of Warren County native and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson will make its debut at the Struthers Library Theatre in downtown Warren on Friday night.
According to a Facebook page for the film, entitled 'Liberty under Law', the film is "the first, feature-length documentary to explore the life and legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson." The film will show at 8 p.m. and is preceded by a panel discussion at 7 p.m.
So, why should people come and see it?
Warren County native Robert H. Jackson served on the U.S. Supreme Court as an Associate Justice from 1941 until his death in 1954.
Because "the things he started are as relevant today as they were in his time," Jackson Center Executive Director and former Chief of Prosecutions for the Special Court for Sierra Leone James Johnson said.
"If you look at Justice Jackson and what he did in his career both as a Supreme Court justice, and the very many important decisions he was involved in" in civil rights, social justice and presidential power "and look at what he did in the area of international law, in many respects that is the blueprint for the modern international criminal trials we have going on in the Hague and in Africa," Johnson added.
While serving on the Supreme Court, Jackson took a leave of absence in 1945 to serve as U.S. Chief of Counsel for the Nuremberg Trials, the international war tribunals established to prosecute Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of World War II.
"Produced by Main Street Media in collaboration with the Robert H. Jackson Center and the Warren County Historical Society, 'Liberty under Law' takes viewers from the forests and farms of Spring Creek, Pa. into Jackson's law offices in Jamestown, New York, and on to President Franklin Roosevelt's inner circle, before, during and after World War II," the Facebook page explains.
"To learn about Justice Jackson and to learn about his life (one is) learning about issues critical in the world today," Johnson said, explaining that Jackson's story will show "how those issues were handled and how that legacy is pertinent and still playing a role in national law and international law."
Jackson was born in Spring Creek in 1892 and moved with his family to Frewsburg, N.Y., five years later. At 21, he passed the New York state bar exam and practiced law in Jamestown and Buffalo.
In 1934, Jackson received his first federal appointment as General Counsel of the U.S. Treasury's Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue. He served as Solicitor General and Attorney General before his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1941. In 1945, accepted President Truman's appointment as counsel for the Nuremberg Trials, returning to serve on the high court until his death in 1954.
"His story alone is quite phenomenal," Johnson said.
Jackson was "Born on a farm in northwest Pennsylvania, never went to college (except for) one year in law school, grew up in the ranks" and ultimately served on the high court as well as being considered the "first modern international law prosecutor," he added.
The film is the story of "how a man with such humble beginnings had such an impact on the world today," he said. "This is a story for students at any level. It doesn't matter where you come from. This is someone that came from humble beginnings."
Before the film, a panel discussion will "set the stage for Jackson's life and (the film)," Johnson said. It will "help explain Jackson's role in the major things he was involved with."
Jackson's last law clerk on the Supreme Court, Barrett Prettyman, will be on the panel. Prettyman brings vast insight, not only as a clerk but, as Johnson noted, as someone who negotiated directly with Cuba for the Kennedy Administration. From an international law perspective, David M. Crane, former chief prosecutor for the Special Court of Sierra Leone, will be on the panel, as well.
Accompanying Prettyman and Crane will be Jackson's grandson, Thomas Loftus, and Jackson biographer John Q. Barrett.
The event's "sponsors were very generous in making this happen," Johnson said. United Refining Co. "bought the house out" to make admission free. Other sponsors include Whirley DrinkWorks and PNC Bank.
Free tickets for the evening will be available on Friday at the door.