Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 36

WORTH READING

INSPIRING
PROFILES
FROM AN AGE OF OPTIMISM
Review by Ronald Goldfarb

I

n Pillars of Justice: Lawyers and the
Liberal Tradition, retired Yale law
professor Owen Fiss writes about
the careers of 13 lawyers whose work
in the last half century, particularly
through their involvement in Brown
v. Board of Education, "changed the
world." He makes his case in essays
about Justices Thurgood Marshall
and William Brennan; prosecutors
John Doar and Burke Marshall,
who ran the Civil Division of the
U.S. Department of Justice under
Robert F. Kennedy; as well as five law
professors and four lawyers, all of
whom Fiss knew and worked with.
Fiss had to stretch to keep some
of his profiles under the umbrella
of the Brown case, which he
describes as "a beacon to guide
them in their endeavors," particularly
Argentinian scholar Carlos NiƱo
and Israeli jurist Aharon Barak,
notable as their careers were.
Before his career at Yale Law School, Fiss studied
philosophy at Oxford, went to law school at
Harvard, taught at the University of Chicago, and
clerked for Justices Marshall and Brennan. This long
career means he knew and worked with all the
subjects of his book. Fiss remarks that, "All biography is a form of autobiography," and this is so
for this reviewer as well. I worked at the Robert F.
Kennedy Justice Department, knew both Marshall
and Doar, and studied with some of the Yale professors and deans who Fiss praises. Having lived

Book cover courtesy of Harvard University Press

36 WASHINGTON LAWYER

* JANUARY 2018

*

through the time when the civil rights struggle
played out dramatically on the national stage,
Fiss's rich experiences and notable scholarship
shine through.
While Fiss's book reads like a farewell toast to his
friends and professional mentors, the truth is that
the people he profiles were so important to law
and legal pedagogy that the chapters are fast
reads. His profiles will especially interest the many
Washington Lawyer readers who are teachers,
and all readers will find his personal vignettes
describing his time in the civil rights struggle
and legal education enlightening.
The author's colleagues, role models, and friends
were all estimable people, but his anecdotes about
Thurgood Marshall and his remarkably unique
career are particularly charming. Fiss clerked for
both Marshall and Brennan, observing first-hand
their efforts toward "the redemptive possibilities
of law."
How Doar evolved from small-town Wisconsin
lawyer in his family's law practice to a moral model
in the power politics of his day, the civil rights
battles that followed Brown, and the Watergate era
are stories the legal profession can be proud of. So,
too, is the story of the shy but wise Burke Marshall,
whose career at the Justice Department and at Yale
Law Fiss shared. In legal education, Fiss's vignettes
about the extraordinary scholar Harry Kalven at
the University of Chicago Law School, and Dean
Eugene Rostow and Joe Goldstein at Yale, are
worth hearing from one who knew them well. His
chapter on Catharine MacKinnon explains the evolution of a notable pioneer of women's rights from
student to academic to influential polemicist.
Fiss's book can be a bit chummy, but the chums
were such remarkable people in the world of law
that the book entertains and enlightens that its
chumminess can be forgiven.
Ronald Goldfarb is an attorney, author, and literary
agent in Washington, D.C. Read more of his work at
ronaldgoldfarb.com.


http://www.ronaldgoldfarb.com http://www.dcbar.org/ http://www.dcbar.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January 2018

Your Voice
From Our President
Our Membership
Career & Professional Development
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
Feature: When Counsel Needs Counseling
Feature: Finding Fullment in Life & the Law
Feature: Surviving Incivility
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Partners' Perspective
Disciplinary Summaries
Campus Connection
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Our Membership
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Career & Professional Development
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: When Counsel Needs Counseling
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 20
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: Finding Fullment in Life & the Law
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 26
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: Surviving Incivility
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 30
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Partners' Perspective
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Campus Connection
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 45
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover4
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