Court of Historical Review

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The Court of Historical Review (sometimes called the Court of Historical Review and Appeal) is a mock court in San Francisco, California. It has been convened on irregular intervals over several decades in order to decide questions of historical curiosity. The court's judgment is purely symbolic and has no legal or academic authority. The court has been presided over by a number of actual or retired judges, including U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hanlon and San Francisco Municipal Court Judge George T. Choppelas.

Though it is a mock court, a number of notable attorneys and civic figures have argued cases and appeared as "witnesses", sometimes in character as historical figures. The court's proceedings are described as colorful and are reported widely.


The most widely noted case before the Court of Historical Review was in 1983, when it determined that the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco, not Los Angeles. Participants in the case "wore yellow makeup and Celestial costumes and spoke in pidgin English as they presented the oral history underlying each side’s case".[1]

Lefty O'Doul, was not named to the Baseball Hall of Fame before his death in December 1969, and is still waiting to be recognized, an ongoing issue important to many fans of the game. The 76th meeting of the Court of Historical Review in 1997 heard spirited arguments from the opposition justifying his exclusion, and others supporting his admittance. In the end, Judge George T. Choppelas accepted criteria was sufficient for O'Doul's induction into the Hall of Fame. The verdict was passionately greeted with boos and cheers by both sides of the controversy.[2]

While many issues were of uncertain merit such as determining Elvis Presley was indeed dead; others had a much more serious tone, "retrying" controversial cases which already passed through actual courts of law. Shoeless Joe Jackson, though acquitted in 1921 over the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, could no longer play ball professionally nor be admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stories about his presumed guilt continued to be distributed. In 1993, Jackson's innocence was affirmed by the Court of Historical Review.[3] Some International Church of the Foursquare Gospel leaders used the Aimee Semple McPherson ruling in 1990 as a modern vindication by law professionals who re-examined the evidence; agreeing with the earlier grand jury inquiries that there was nothing substantial disproving their founder's 1926 kidnapping story.[4] The mock court did not come to any decisive ruling on whether or not Bruno Hauptman was guilty of his charged crimes resulting in his execution, but recommended that the case be reopened. This prompted a reply from New Jersey authorities who stated they saw no reason to do so.[5]

A partial list of the verdicts of the court include: