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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Remembering the Chief

WaPo's national staff writer who covers the Supreme Court, Charles Lane, has written a touching, poignant report on yesterday's funeral of our late Chief Justice of the United States headlined "Rehnquist Eulogies Look Beyond Bench." It reminds us that our history — in this instance, our national legal history — is made not by gods or titans, but by flesh-and-blood men and women. Thus the same man who proudly and creditably bore the title of "Chief Justice of the United States," and led both our highest single court and entire federal courts system, also proudly and creditably bore, from time to time, titles like "father" and "grandfather"; "mentor" and "neighbor"; "fellow-congregant" and "poker buddy"; and even, once, "busboy" and "fruit-picker." The same man who revitalized federalism, and who presided over the Senate impeachment trial of a President, also apparently made a mean bologna jelly and mayonnaise sandwich.

In the end, his body's fate will be the same as all our bodies' fates. I hesitate to credit John Dean as a reliable source, but his recently much-repeated story about Nixon referring to "that clown" in the Hush Puppies, pink shirt, and clashing psychedelic tie — "Renchburg" or "Rensler," "an excellent man" whom Nixon "knew well" before nominating him to the Supreme Court — reminded me of Hamlet's graveyard musings just before the bit about the skull of poor Yorick, the jester whom he knew:

There's another: why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets,
his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he
suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the
sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of
his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be
in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes,
his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers,
his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and
the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine
pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him
no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than
the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The
very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in
this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

He was "the Chief," yet but a man. Yet that he was but a man makes his achievements in life, both grand and small, all the more admirable. And while we all must suffer the likelihood that some rude knave may knock our remains about with a dirty shovel and that our fine pates will end up full of fine dirt, we can yet honor his accomplishments during a life well lived, and his memory thereafter. I certainly do.

Posted by Beldar at 08:20 AM in Law (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Remembering the Chief and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Roberts' nomination as chief may avoid Senate fight from Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator

Tracked on Sep 8, 2005 11:23:21 AM


(1) nk made the following comment | Sep 8, 2005 10:30:42 PM | Permalink

His tragedy was that he was never a judge before becoming a Justice. It was a handicap he never overcame. He was overshadowed first by Warren Burger, a judge without peer, and subsequently by other more experienced judges. My last published Fourth Amendment win was a result of my sandabagging the State by his distinguishing an anonymous tip as cause for a stop and search in U.S. v. Robinson. Neither his distintion nor my case are any longer good law. He was a brilliant man and lawyer and a loyal servant of America and Justice. May he rest in peace.

(2) San Francisco lawyer made the following comment | Sep 9, 2005 4:20:21 PM | Permalink

Hi, just came across your blog. I enjoyed it ...May the chief rest in peace.

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What makes me sick are the emails I have been receiving over the past few days from people "claiming" to help. Maybe they are sincere maybe not. I don't know.

If You Want To Help the Hurricane Efforts

Here's two links to legitimate organizations to donate your money too if you want to help.

FEMA - http://www.fema.gov
Red Cross - http://www.redcross.org

Feel free to pass this message on to someone else.

Help someone and donate what you can today.

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