by Max Brantley
Gerald Heaney, a retired federal judge from Minnesota, had a huge impact on Arkansas from his 8th Circuit Court seat. The judge's work notably included school desegregation, including the landmark and ongoing Little Rock school case, and employment discrimination cases that literally reshaped the way people lived and worked. He died Tuesday at 92. A couple of Arkansas-related notes in the NY Times obituary:
In his first major opinion, Judge Heaney, a stalwart liberal, wrote the 1967 ruling that reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss complaints of racial discrimination in the Altheimer, Ark., schools. His opinion, tracing a history of segregation, prompted the district to adopt an integration plan. It was one of eight desegregation cases in which he played a key role.
...Nowhere was Judge Heaney’s concern for what he considered injustice more apparent than in his dissent from a 2003 ruling allowing Arkansas officials to force a convicted murderer to take drugs that would make him sane enough to be executed — a ruling the Supreme Court let stand.
Judge Heaney wrote, “I believe that to execute a man who is severely deranged without treatment, and arguably incompetent when treated, is the pinnacle of what Justice Marshall called ‘the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.’ ”