Wednesday, April 16, 2014

50 Years at Albany Street: Prof. Goldman Recalls Supreme Encounter

By Professor Stan Goldman '75

William Brennan was a surprise in so many ways. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, he was to become perhaps the most potent liberal justice to have ever sat on the nation's high court. He achieved this by simply outmaneuvering many of those who vehemently opposed his political persuasion. Even as the court"s makeup grew more and more conservative, and he would find himself on the losing end of most arguments, he managed to use his seemingly unparalleled political savvy to piece together majorities no other justice could have created. The tradition of our highest court is that, if the chief justice is in the dissent, the most senior member of the majority is authorized to write, or assign, the court's opinion. So fearful was Chief Justice Warren Burger of Justice Brennan's ability to persuade with his words, that the rock-ribbed conservative chief would switch his vote to support positions he despised solely so that he could block Brennan from delivering the court's judgments. Brennan was surprising in other ways as well. 

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An idol of mine, I approached weak-kneed and with great trepidation years ago when he graciously agreed to become Loyola Law School's most distinguished graduation speaker. He proved to be as welcoming and generous spirit, to a young law professor, as he was wise. Of course, there is one other reason for my looking fondly back upon the great man's appearance at our university. Graduation took place the first Sunday in June. An outdoor ceremony, graduates, family and faculty would bake beneath the Westchester sun. Fearful that the elderly justice wouldn't be able to take the afternoon heat, the school decided to acquire a tent to cover the dais beneath which the faculty and graduation speakers could comfortably repose during the lengthy ceremony. That is, blessedly, a tradition that is continued now. Three decades later, any member of the Loyola faculty should not only remember fondly the great man's appearance at our school, but also the comfort we are able to enjoy during the ceremony.

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