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January 12, 2006


John Lopresti

Yours is an appropriate commentary in both epochs, the 1970s and 2006s. Speaking as one who traversed the airways between the town of Kennedy's alma mater Boston-Cambridge, to Alito's NJ nest in the court's district 3, I find your comparison appropriate, especially in context of current tense attribution errors discovered by a 'wierded-out' professor wrongly identified as a youthful sole author in an energized editorial comment those long years ago. Appropriately, and yet further, the reflection upon the entire trope we are witnessing this week of 2006 hearings is vivified by your personal remembrance of the on-campus tribulations caused by the modernization which sunsetted much of the Old World sexism upon which Ivy League was based.
While Harvard was miles better than Princeton in that regard, viewed from the peer level, there was scant discernible difference during the time when your coauthored op-ed appeared in the Crimson: in NJ, as I recall, the sensibility was the Old Guard was firmly alumni controlled PU administration. In Boston around that time, as you will recall, and seemingly eternally Harvardlike, the student body itself was very independent and avant garde: your mention of the co-ed dorm in which you lodged. In the 1970s students were ready for quick social change; the country was over the brink, social unrest was tapering, the Ivy League and other colleges, but especially the Ivy League, was entering the new social order. I call it social order rather than culture, lest the least educated among us somehow mispronounce culture as kultcha.
In a real way, in MA, Teddy Kennedy is an icon; yet, Kerry is the conservative for balance, with respect to US senate representation for MA. Kennedy has taken worthy positions in debate to help minorities and the downtrodden of all ilk. The entire Senate in large measure has assumed an iconic visage over these few decades since the surging youth of the 19-year-old editor morphing into the misattributed professor.
Since my own course developed over these times, I, too, have met people who were putative liberals of Harvard Law education, yet, who readily verbally would rue the day Radcliffe misced with Harvard and that vestige of sexism vanished; these were liberals who would later work for the dons and archons of regressive political entities, in effect, wasting a perfectly good liberal education by using its leverage to effect social regression.
These were just the kinds of folks who at Harvard might join the sexist club, or at Princeton the preserve-ROTC-on-campus and exclude the women society.
Kennedy became the bon vivant Democrat, Alito the meticulous Republican judge still on the mid Atlantic seaboard.
Curiously, if one waxes egregiously historical and reads of the valiant intrigues among the writers of the US Constitution, similar banalities of personal taste are unearthed.
I sometimes like to view the senate hearings process as a morality play, limited only by the flaws known to inhere in the actors and actresses; and by their intellect; their capacity for extempore repartee.
I suppose one needs to be ready for the mantle of leadership; it just seems very personal and revealing to take that positive step.
This week our own niche of civilization has taken another step and filtered onto the US Supreme Court another icon of his time in Alito; or one imagines future candidate Feingold notwithstanding, Alito will accede to that post Very Soon Now, after desultory quasiarchtypic debate in the full Senate.
As we near in another decade the anniversary of the women's suffrage amendment to the constitution, it is a triffle ironic we are still here acknowledging the icons past; indeed, as you observe, or perhaps only allude, the interpretation is mine: as if our society now dines at the fabulous Indian cuisine food establishment and whispers about the improvement in milieu since the witch hunters of Salem are no longer abroad; and the iconic judges and senators have met in full opprobrium and with somber tones anoint yet another deliberator who favors the unitary executive with plenary powers, to the Supreme Court, there to foster and sustain the radical regressive impetus which has led our nation so far away from the relaxed and warm societal trends of which we shared visions during the 1970s, as the Vietnam conflict wound down ending in hasty exit, Agnew and Nixon left office posthaste, Brown versussed the Board of Education, and Roe versussed Wade. ERA was to fail then; we searched for three fourths of the states to approve of ERA and the search evanesced fruitless somewhere in the midwest. We continue our earliest election caucusing there in the midwest, and rockribbed old New England. But we are still searching for the author of the memo, the confabulators who lost the documents, the consultants who would devise ways to undermine laws. Not settled law. It is unsettled. Our new icon has made one subtle comment about his view of Supreme Court policy, and it is that the law is not settled. Society has made so many changes itself, sometimes it seems the leaders should be entitled to their clubs and tangential characterization of what has occurred. But the civil rights implications of the new burgeoning coterie of regressive thinkers on the Supreme Court bodes ill.
Over the past two years Kennedy has harangued a few times about missing and withheld documents; perhaps in this one instance yet again he is entitled to stand as the icon held voiceless before the precession of yet another conservative to the top court.
Shakespeare had it right about how some public figures seem to rant and cant but miss the target.
I suspect our next generation will have considerable work set before them as they try to unravel these binding forces which still 'held us green...though (we) sang in our chains like the sea'.
Attribution, please: D.M.Thomas

Gives you a sense of the time we are in.
John Lopresti

Dave Hardy

You have to remember that law libraries with full sets of state reporters are very much a modern idea! Most attorneys trained off Blackstone, not off case law.

One of the reasons St. Geo. Tucker gave for writing his edition of Blackstone was that Virginia lawyers of the time (1803) knew Blackstone but didn't know Virginia caselaw and how it varied from the original treatise.

I recall reading an article (15 yrs ago) on Marbury v. Madison, that noted that CJ Marshall "sorta-cited" cases in it -- no case name given, but a reference like "it will well be remembered that we held..." It turned out that he'd confused and mingled the facts of two prior decisions of his very Court!

John Lopresti

Correction and Addendum The date cited above is imprecise and should be Dylan Marlais Thomas B.1914. D.1953, though the verse attribution was alright as stated; see also,
Swansea site. Seeking a historical context for 1956, the anachronist part of the computer search engine yielded a Harvard graduated attorney B1879 D1955 writing:
"In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And in the morning summer hued the deck
And made one think of rosy chocolate
And gilt umbrellas..."
Though the latter, Wallace Stevens is better known for verse than insurance torts which were his predilection.
In the brief quest for these cites in PoetLaw, or what should be called PoetLaw, or SphereMuse, or a like eBusinessName, I was reminded of a very legal bit of news after reading your second commenter's lament about Blackstone and its curious history. The founder of the PC Faire in San Francisco, later started a small consultancy and once tried to donate a server in the early internet days to the state legislature: the proposed application was for state legislators to post draft bills onto a public site on the internet. There was an existing private enterprise contracted to the state legislature to perform that service, a company long known as the sole source for state law sourcebooks to attorneys, including a regular stream of updates as each law's amendments and superseding statutes passed. This private company worried about losing profits if there were going to be a public server posting legislation online.
Now, if we want to discuss the impact upon civil society of precise or imprecise cites, websites can be a boon for the public knowledgebase, and possibly enhance the participatory nature of the public in lawmaking.
Much is still carried on in secret in the state legislature, leaving gossip to the local news media as bills and deals are dealt and balanced. Attorneys still rely on monthly updates to the law book, now on CD and MSWord readable. And the state incrementally has begun posting laws and regulations online; though if one seeks copies of the pdf of the latest court brief in a contentious case, it takes great resourcefullness to accomplish that. FindLaw is getting better; Pacer is still in the antediluvian mode and costly; then there are the subscription sites.
In draft mode your website leaves some doubt whether links and orthography are parsed; wherefore, the following 3 footnotes supply those links which are embedded in the original text above:
Timeline: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/dylanthomas/timeline/
Swansea site http://www.dylanthomas.com/index.cfm?articleid=5038
NB: Being mostly a poetry consumer not biographer of poets I was shocked to learn DMT was billed as a Bohemian in New York. Evidently his demise occurred on a lecture tour; precise details unknown to this blog contributor.

Wallace Stevens verse: a href ="http://www.hipmuseum.com/dire.html
NB: A quick search yielded only stuffy websites about Stevens, who was not hip but a rather staid gent with a gilded eloquence

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