Philip Elman graduated Harvard Law School in 1939 and immediately began his legal career as a clerk for Judge Calvert Magruder in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Elman quickly climbed the ranks and soon thereafter clerked for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (1941-1943). Finding his place in the Supreme Court and in the Justice Department, Elman spent the next 17 years of his career as an assistant to the Solicitor General. In this time, he worked on several briefs for landmark Civil Rights cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Shelley v. Kraemer.
However, in a recent review of his papers, I came across a folder entitled “During Announcement of Opinions June 3, 1957,” which piqued my interest. Upon further investigation, I found a single note in the folder that I’m sure sums up many people’s feelings on the publication of Supreme Court opinions:
Nobody can be clear which decision(s) inspired the “Oi-Wei” memo, but there were two companion cases the court issued decisions for that June both having ties to immigration laws: Mulcahey v. Catalanotte and Lehmann v. Carson. While immigration laws have been a topic brought before the Supreme Court a number of times in the intervening 55 years, the opinion just issued by the current court on Arizona v. United States surely elicited a few Oi-Weis from the supporters of the law.