Learned Hand’s Dream

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published my review of Reason and Imagination, a collection of Judge Learned Hand’s correspondence.

Had I unlimited space, I would have mentioned Learned Hand’s dream of a first day in Heaven, as recounted in Gerald Gunther’s biography of Hand:

[H]e would say that in the morning there would be a baseball game, with the score 4-1 in favor of the opposing team in the bottom of the ninth. Hand’s team then loads the bases, and it is Hand’s turn at bat; he promptly hits a home run, clearing the bases and winning the game. In the afternoon, there is a football game between the evenly matched teams, tied in a scoreless match. With a minute left to play, Hand catches a punt, weaves his way down the sidelines, and scores the winning touchdown. The highlight of the day is an evening banquet, with civilization’s greatest minds – Socrates, Descartes, Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire – among the guests. The designated speaker for the evening is Voltaire. After a few words from him, the audience shouts, “Shut up Voltaire, and sit down. WE WANT HAND!”

Hand’s most famous former clerk, Ronald Dworkin, has recounted this story many times — see, for example, his 2010 law review article, “Justice for Hedgehogs.” But I heard this story from Dworkin firsthand: in 2000 or 2001, he addressed the University of Iowa Law School, and I ventured all the way from the undergraduate campus to hear it in person. It was probably my first exposure to either Dworkin or Hand.

Last Things First

The next issue of Esquire includes a great profile of Robert Caro, the legendary biographer of LBJ and Robert Moses.  Caro’s long been a hero of mine, ever since I read Master of the Senate and watched his three-hour profile on C-Span back in 2002. The Esquire profile focuses on Caro’s writing process, making much of the fact […]

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Jonathan Zittrain: “Great Teacher”

Back in 2000, my eagerness to go to Harvard Law School was driven by one factor above all others: I wanted to become an expert on “Internet Law,” and move to Silicon Valley.  (To be fair, it was 2000, and the idea of “Internet Law” as a separate field wasn’t as ridiculous-sounding as it might […]

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Drop Whatever You’re Doing And Read This

It’s only the most important news story ever.

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On Obamacare, Judge Friendly, and “Independent” Agencies

It’s a busy week for my writing hobby, as three of my articles all came out at once. First, on Saturday, The Weekly Standard published my thoughts on Obamacare’s prospects before the Supreme Court. (My article already has received generous mention by Ed Whelan and Michael Greve.) Better still, I benefitted from the work of […]

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Libraries & “Anti-Libraries”

Speaking of the new issue of The New Republic, it closes with Leon Wieseltier’s lovely essay on personal libraries in an age of digital text: A library has a personality, a temperament. (Sometimes a dull one.) Its books show the scars of use and the wear of need. They are defaced—no, ornamented—by markings and notes […]

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Robert Kaplan on Solitude

While on the subject of solitude, I can’t help but think back to the extended C-Span “In Depth” interview with Robert Kaplan, back in 2005.  In that interview, as in almost every “In Depth,” the show cuts to a brief visit to the author’s home or office; that’s always my favorite part of the show, […]

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On Solitude and the “Work Destroyers”

Shortly after Steve Jobs’s death, I posted short blog posts here and at the Standard on Apple Computer’s roots in Silicon Valley.  (The post at this site continues to attract a surprising number of visitors via Google, oddly enough.) But Apple isn’t just a story about community, of course, and in fact it also offers a […]

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The Myth of Giving Unanimous Support to a New Justice’s First Opinion

It’s good to see Mike Sacks — of “First One @ One First” fame — back on a full-time Supreme Court beat.  But I’m less happy to see him perpetuate a bit of a myth: namely, that Supreme Court justices traditionally line up unanimously behind each new Justice’s debut opinion, and that Justices Thomas & […]

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Justice Stevens and Targeted Killings — Then and Now

In his time on the Supreme Court bench, Justice John Paul Stevens played an critically important role in re-defining the Supreme Court’s view of the President’s wartime powers.  I am no great fan of this, obviously; but setting aside his success in overturning important precedents, his work was rather fascinating in the context of his […]

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