The other day I was reading the Twitter, when I came across a debate/conversation among several academics. They were conversing about the great justices/judges of history and who was maybe overrated or underrated. While most of this conversation went over my head (about 95%), I raised the question that eventually these long passed judges/justices are going to be replaced by more modern era judges. My comparison was that The Beatles are a legend, possibly the greatest, but what about the music that my generation actually saw and heard and experienced (Nirvana, RHCP, Jay-Z, etc.)?
The Beatles = Holmes, Harlan, Jackson, Cardozo, Friendly, etc.
My generation’s music = O’Connor, Ginsburg, Marshall, Rehnquist, Roberts, Breyer (I’m just listing current/recent justices, not saying whether I agree or disagree with them).
I’m also not making a comparison between the music, or making a judgment about what someone should be listening to (not trying to upset any Beatles fans).
Could I honestly tell you right now which decade Cardozo was on the court or what his most significant opinion was without googling it? No. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t important, or that I shouldn’t maybe study him some more. And I also know that just because I don’t specifically know his impact that it isn’t felt in the legal world every day.
But what it does mean is that when my generation grows older and fills in the teaching spots of academia and the judiciary - which judges and justices will they quickly cite to? I can tell you rather quickly who Chief Justice Roberts is and some of his significant and impactful opinions. I can also point out quickly, like many others of my generation, who Justice Ginsburg is and what her legacy will likely be. Because we see and experience it in the news, in legal opinions, in conversations.
Will the Holmes, Cardozo, Friendly remain in text books for decades and generations to come. Or will they be replaced by the current judges of today? And if so, which ones?
But in the end, I will take the advice of a well-known and well-respected attorney/professor Orin Kerr:
“Dude, go listen to some Beatles and read some Friendly.”
Good advice that I will take.