Date in History:
Justice Stephen C. O’Connell was sworn in as a justice of the Florida Supreme Court. O’Connell was born in West Palm Beach in 1916 and attended the University of Florida earning a degree in law. O’Connell was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 which ruled separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. At the time Florida was a segregated state and O’Connell and his fellow justices took a conservative stance opting towards gradual integration of public facilities, buses, schools and restaurants. Desegregation efforts continued into the 1970s in Florida. It was during O’Connell’s tenure that the Florida Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, denying Clarence Earl Gideon appeal for a writ of habeas corpus, a ruling which was ultimately overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case paved the way for the right of the individual to counsel for defendants in U.S. courts. O’Connell stepped down from the Florida Supreme Court in 1967 and became the president of the University of Florida where he worked until 1973.