Civil Rights: Rare Rebuke

In the summer of 1963, Selma, Ala., was embroiled in a voter-registration drive among Negroes. In standard response, local police made arrests on charges that ranged from vagrancy to concealing identity, from inciting to riot and truancy (for the children) to driving automobiles without proper license-plate lights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has just reversed all the convictions, as expected. But the redress was unexpected. In an action brought by the Justice Department under the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the court not only ordered the county to repay fines collected from the...

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