Summer of ’69

1969 was an eventful year. Hidden behind the spectacle of the USA’s arrival on the moon was the amazing work of Kenneth Manaster.

Summer of ’69
John Paul Stevens: Bow-tied and low profile, he didn’t deliver a summer whitewash in leading the investigation. He retired from the Supreme Court in 2010. He’s still alive, at 96. View full image. Photo courtesy Corbis Images
First scandal, then book, now movie

While the most remembered launch in 1969 may have been that of man to the Moon, it was an Illinois legal scandal that sent the career of retiring law professor, Kenneth Manaster, skyrocketing.

The case arose as two Illinois Supreme Court Justices, Ray Klingbiel and Roy Solfisburg, were accused of accepting stock bribes from a lawyer in a criminal case. As the scandal gained great media traction, the court ordered a commission to investigate the corruption, appointing a young Manaster, along with future Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, to the staff.

After publishing a book detailing the case, Manaster officially brought his work to the screen 14 years later in the 2015 documentary Unprecedented Justice.

The PBS-broadcasted film, narrated by Peter Coyote, follows Manaster’s book, Illinois Justice: the Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens, in describing the team’s rigorous pro bono work in the face of media manipulation, a paltry budget, and a mere six weeks. Featuring newspaper clippings, court documents, and interviews with the justice himself, the documentary illuminates the journey of Stevens from anonymity to his esteemed position as the court’s third longest-serving member.

After retiring in December, Manaster released another book, Pro Bono Practice & Legal Ethics, alongside Professor Alan Scheflin and Research Fellow Viva Harris, drawing on the 1969 case in highlighting the importance of pro bono work.

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