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Saturday, October 08, 2005 


I know I said I wouldn't mention Miers until the hearings, but I lied. And this is not really about her per se. It's about this whole "Warren" issue.

Warren Burger has been dragged through the mud on almost every blog and commentary site covering this tempest in a teapot. Well, I've had enough. I'm coming out and saying it. I love Warren Burger. But here are the reasons...

It's not for his legal opinions. It's not for his leadership as Chief. It's not for his administration of the Court and the judiciary. It is because Warren Burger was the embodiment of a comic book super villain. He was the Lex Luthor of the federal judiciary. He was that damn good.

Who else could piss off Douglas and Brennan so much over opinion assignments? Burger would claim to be in the majority of a case just to assign the opinion to a particular justice. And yes, that is "claim." He would change his mind all the time. Meanwhile, Douglas was climbing up the walls of his chambers about this and Brennan was getting all teary eyed about Earl Warren not being there. Burger was amazing at sticking it to people. As an aside, I still think he joined the majority in Roe to keep Douglas from writing the opinion.

Who else would threaten to punch Judge Bazelon, chief of the DC Circuit, for allegedly letting the press into then-Judge Burger's chambers to photograph it after being nominated to be Chief? Burger was going to sock him in the nose for letting the reporters into his chambers. You gotta love that rough and tumble (and possible assault charge) attitude of the then soon-to-be-Chief.

Burger was also a snappy dresser. Look at the cover of The Brethren. Compare Burger to the other Justices. The other eight are wearing pretty dull suits. Nothing spectacular. Not Burger. He's looking quite dapper, also sporting the French cuffs on his shirt. Complain all you want about his sloppy opinions, the man can dress.

On a more serious note, I admire Burger for one thing especially. Burger climbed the mountain. He was selling insurance while working to become a night school graduate. He didn't go to law school at some big name university. He went to the St Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College of Law). Burger was no Harvard man or Yalie. That means that he clawed his way to the top of the national legal environment without the benefit of a privileged pedigree. And he eventually did make it to the very top, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He gives hope for all of us in non-Ivy League schools.

This is the 300th time on ED that I'm going to recommend reading The Brethren. It's just a great book. Borrow it from a library or buy it used so Bob Woodward doesn't get any money from it. He's a pompous tool. But read it and thank Justice Stewart for being such a snitch. Without him, we probably wouldn't have so much great information on the first 7 terms of the Burger Court.

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  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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