Who is your favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice (past or present)?
That’s a difficult one to answer, as Oliver Wendell Holmes and William Brennan would be in my top five. In the end, though, I would have to say Louis Brandeis is my favorite Supreme Court justice.
Before becoming a justice, Brandeis was a brilliant law student – valedictorian of his class at Harvard Law School. As a young attorney, he coauthored a Harvard Law Review article with Samuel Warren, advocating for the law to recognize a person’s right to privacy. Later in his career, he became known as the “People’s Lawyer” for taking on many public interest cases pro bono. And, of course, he was appointed to the Supreme Court, where he steadfastly defended the constitutional concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of privacy.
Throughout his career, Brandeis used his legal talents, both as a lawyer and as a judge, to effectuate positive change; he used his legal knowledge for the betterment of society. His law career serves as an example of what lawyers and judges should try to emulate.
What are your two greatest accomplishments in your career in the legal profession?
The first was the result of my being invited to have lunch with the tax partner of one of the first firms I worked with, who began by saying, “You are not a lawyer and I hate what you stand for in trying to introduce this c--ap you call ‘marketing.’” My accomplishment was to get him to pay for the lunch!
The second was to get the first firms I worked with to create the position of marketing administrator, allow me to develop the job description, and then select or recruit someone for the position.
What was your most memorable trip?
In 1987 I received an invitation from a longtime friend to accompany him and his wife on a 30-day tour of China. The thought had never occurred to me, but I was intrigued. We love to travel, and my dad had been there in the immediate aftermath of WWII. But there was a problem. The group was leaving in only three weeks, and I had an active law practice to attend to. I declined. Then, talking to my dad, he made a simple comment: “Remember your mother.”
That had become a code phrase in our family. Mom was the most vibrant, active, and healthy grandmother that I knew. But, at age 62 she was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer and did not survive six months. All Mom and Dad’s hard work, wonderful retirement plans, and expectations evaporated. The lesson: live today. The future is unknown. That was not a license to be irresponsible with our future but to enjoy this wonderful life while we are healthy and able.
So, I reconsidered, and soon my wife and I were on our way to China. It was an extraordinary 30 days exploring Beijing and Tiananmen Square before the massacre, Wuhan, Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Soldiers, Chongqing, the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges before they were flooded, tiny Fenji only accessible by the river, Shanghai and the incredibly vibrant Hong Kong before its return to China from the British Empire. And we learned that in spite of our political differences, most Chinese people love Americans because we saved them from the Japanese in WWII.
It was an extraordinary trip of a lifetime, and we might have missed it but for Dad’s reminder about life.
When you were in high school, where did you expect to be at this point in your life?
Funny you should ask. When I was in high school 20 years ago, I was interviewed for a newspaper article. The reporter asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said I wanted to write for a newspaper or a magazine. I don’t know why I said that.