I just got back from the Learned Hand Luncheon. One of the men honored was Noel Fidel. Appellate Court Judge, and Vice Dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law.
I took Torts from him my first year of law school. He overheard some students complaining that legal writing was too constraining to allow creativity. The next class he read “Shall I prepare thee to a summer’s day?,” and remarked, “Fourteen lines, ten syllables each, don’t think for a minute that constraining the form constrains creativity.” He could have as easily been a professional trumpet player as a lawyer.
Today, after receiving his award he did the standard thanking of people. Then he talked about how reluctantly he came to the law. He said, almost off-handedly it seemed, “I didn’t love the law. [mild laughter from the crowd] I know that some do love the law. But I could never love an institution that has brought about so much injustice.” Then he provided words of condemnation and warning, reminding us of the horrors brought by the law in this country and abroad. Finally, he turned us to our current national legal tragedy: Immigration. Whatever the answer is, it is not what we’re doing now. And like the master he is, he closed quoting these words from Arlo Guthrie:
We died in your hills,
we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river,
we died just the same.