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New PBS Supreme Court Series Premieres January 31

One Nation Under Law, by Sy Sternberg, Chairman Of The Board

John Marshall. William O. Douglas. Thurgood Marshall. Sandra Day O’Connor. How many Americans would recognize these names as four of the 110 individuals who have served as justices of the United States Supreme Court?

Marbury vs. Madison. Dred Scott v. Sandford. Board of Education of Topeka. Just a few of the landmark cases tried before the Supreme Court. But how many of us know the profound effect the verdicts have had on our government and on our lives?

Two years ago, PBS station Thirteen/WNET New York asked New York Life if it would interested in sponsoring the first television series ever produced on the history of the Supreme Court. They envisioned a program that would recount the history of the nation’s highest court through the colorful personalities and deeply held beliefs on the men and women who rendered its decisions.

We signed on to become the exclusive corporate sponsor of “The Supreme Court” which premieres on January 31st, and continues on February 7th on PBS stations across the country. In retrospect, this was one of the easiest decisions the Company has ever made.

After all, support for education lies at the heart of New York Life’s commitment to one of our core values; humanity. For example, the philanthropic work of the New York Life Foundation is dedicated to nurturing children, through mentoring and creating safe places to learn and grow.

Beginning in 2000, we expanded our educational mission by partnering with public television to produce shows that bring the defining moments in our nation’s history to life. Not only did we make it possible to air award-winning series, such as “The American President,” “ The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” and “Slavery and the Making of America,” on prime time television, we also delivered these lesson into thousands of classrooms via companion Web sites created by and for educators.

I have previewed “The Supreme Court” and can promise that you will be fascinated by what you will learn about the history of this remarkable institution, from the court’s earliest days as an obscure judicial entity that conducted its business in the confines of a cramped Senate change, to today’s powerful “court of last resort,” housed in on of our nation’s most magnificent public buildings. (Incidentally, the United States Supreme Court building was designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect responsible for New York Life’s Home Office building. And, in fact, some of the distinctive design details he created for the Home Office can also be found within the Supreme Court.)

The program features judges and legal scholars who shed new light on some of the court’s most important decisions. Some cases have become famous: Marbury v. Madison (1803), which began as relatively unimportant case involving four justice of the peace appointments, would ultimately establish the Supreme Court as the country’s final authority on constitutional matters. Some cases became infamous: Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), affirmed the legality of slavery and widened the national divide that soon precipitated the Civil War.

We are especially fortunate that current Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. participated in the production of this program, lending his commentary and perspectives. He explains that: “The legitimacy and acceptance of what the court does depends on how people view the institution.” Thanks to this new series from PBS and New York Life, many more people will see how the Supreme Court became one of the great pillars of our democracy, fulfilling George Washington’s prediction that it would be “the keystone of our political fabric.”

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New PBS Supreme Court Series Premieres January 31

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