The Daily Standard has posted my column on the late California Third District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Robert Puglia and the eulogy of Justice Puglia by California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown: “Saying good-bye to a great one.” (Thanks to Justice Puglia’s colleague Justice George Nicholson.)
UPDATE: Harvard Law School Professor William Stuntz writes:
I just read your column on Janice Rogers Brown, and…her eulogy for her colleague Justice Puglia. You did a great service by letting the rest of the world read that eulogy, which is indeed a window not only to the life of Justice Puglia but to Justice Brown’s life, and soul, as well. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who is deeply grateful.
One point about the eulogy deserves some emphasis, and I fear it’s a point that will get lost: no law clerk could have written it. Different clerks have different styles, but no law clerk writes like that. Either those words were penned by a speechwriter of Peggy Noonan quality, or they are Brown’s words. I think we can safely assume that Brown doesn’t have Noonan on her payroll.
That matters a lot. Brown’s tribute to Justice Puglia shows a serious mind at work. You have to have some horsepower to be a good judge; the person who wrote that eulogy has a good deal of horsepower. More than that, the eulogy shows a great heart — and a marriage of mind and heart that is all too rare in the legal profession today, and all too rare on the bench. That’s a very good sign. Here’s another: the eulogy shows that Brown can think for herself. That sounds obvious enough, but a lot of judges don’t, and I suspect some of them can’t. (Read David Garrow’s article on Harry Blackmun in Legal Affairs, and you’ll see what I mean.) One of the biggest problems in America’s judiciary today is the way law clerks are used to mask judges’ inadequacies. We don’t often get to see our judges work save through the filter of their staffs. When we do, we ought to pay attention. I think some Senators would do well to pay attention to that eulogy.