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This week's In the News looks back at the life and legal legacy of former US Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Andrew Blackmun, who died last Thursday at the age of 90, five years after a contentious 24-year tenure with the court. Raised in Minnesota and educated at Harvard University, Blackmun served as a judge in the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon in 1970. Blackmun entered the court as a moderate conservative, but by the end of his long career, his convictions had shifted, and he became regarded as a strong progressive voice championing civil and personal liberties. Blackmun claimed that his ideologies did not change over the course of his career and that his apparent leftward shift was a reflection of the court's transformation to conservatism between 1969 and 1991. During that time period, nine conservative Republican appointees entered the court, replacing several liberal justices and altering the court's composition. Yet despite his self-proclaimed moderate views, Blackmun will be remembered for his liberal jurisprudence, most notably demonstrated in the landmark 50-page majority opinion that he authored in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion. In other important Supreme Court opinions, Blackmun provided a liberal voice as an advocate of free speech, affirmative action, gay rights, and women's rights as well as an opponent of capital punishment. In an interview with The Associated Press after his retirement, Justice Blackmun, who was considered to be a diligent and unassuming man, understated his legal legacy: "I hope I would be remembered as a person of judicial integrity . . . known just as a good worker . . . who held his own and contributed generally to the advancement of the law." The nine resources discussed provide recent news, Supreme Court history, and the full text of related legal documents.
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