Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Michael Dukakis went to law school with Antonin Scalia:
How well did you know Scalia at law school?
Not well. It was an interesting class. Scalia, myself, Paul Sarbanes, Bill Ruckelshaus. But in those days, Isaac, we had a class of 475 that was divided in thirds. So you got to know your section very well. But I didn’t know who Scalia was until the last semester of my last year, when I took a class called Federal Courts and the Federal System, with a great man named Henry Hart. It is 1960. We are in the middle of the civil rights revolution. And there’s this guy in class who begins engaging Professor Hart every day in these long dialogues over whether it was appropriate for federal judges to reach in and take cases away from Southern criminal courts, in cases where, as everyone knew, if you were a black defendant, forget it. And this went on for about three weeks. [Laughs.] I finally turned to the guy next to me and said, “Who the hell is that guy?” He said, “That’s Scalia, he’s on the law review.” And I said, “Does he know what it’s like to be black in the South?” A bright guy—yeah. But he was to the right of Marie Antoinette for Christ’s sake. There was no consistency in his so-called philosophy. Money is corporate speech. This is all preposterous.
What I really love about this anecdote is how closely it resembles my law school experience. We had three sections, and although there was crossover, for the most part the people you started with were the ones you were closest to. At some point you would take a class with people you'd never met, and it was often a matter of, "Who the hell is that?" And, of course, there is the matter of who we become after. Some people become what you would expect, and some become these strange outliers. 

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