Pretty late last night, an Ethics Alarms post about mandatory ages of retirement for judges moved JutGory to offer this remarkable Comment of the Day, a tribute to a role model in his life. Coincidentally, it now follows yesterday’s last post, about a failed role model, or perhaps someone who should have become a role model but who never did.
I’m hopping Jut’s comment over a couple of waiting COTDs because I think it’s good to start off the day with some inspiration when possible.
Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethics Alarms Archives: ‘Age and the Judge,’ And A Current Day Example.”
And, if nothing else, this is the perfect post in which to mention Floyd.
Floyd was at the top of his class at West Point.
Scwartzkopf was a plebe when Floyd graduated.
Floyd injured himself parachuting into Germany on a training exercise.
He became a lawyer and the consummate Southern Gentleman.
He told me about the time that he handled one of those big divorces and his firm submitted a one-page bill in the amount of over $500,000.00 “For Services Rendered.”
He told me about the time he was able to obtain a Writ of Ne Exeat (I had never heard of it either).
And, after a career of legal practice in Georgia, this principled conservative southern lawyer relocated to the State that Mondale Won.
He did it for two reasons: his wife and one of his kids needed a change of environment because of pollen counts, etc., and Dick.
Dick was looking for a legal partner and Floyd was looking to move north. Dick was Floyd’s exact opposite in every way.
Floyd might have been able to tolerate Dick more than anyone else who ever lived.
Close to 20 years later, I arrived on the scene. Dick was a great example, as much as a cautionary tale as anything else. He fearlessly pushed boundaries, even (especially) the stupid ones.
Floyd was the opposite. Floyd, however, was serene.
Floyd explained that he was done trying cases. And, this is the important part: he did not think he could try cases anymore. He knew the law, he knew procedure and he knew the rules of evidence. But, his hearing was going bad. He could not respond to witnesses or to the jury the way he thought he needed to be able to do to do his job. He resigned himself to “second chair.” But, he did so because he had too much respect for the work that needed to be done that he did not feel he was capable of doing.
Dick had stopped trying cases for different reasons, probably because he was too “big picture” to have a grasp on the laws, procedure, or evidence.
Floyd helped me prepare for a few and he was always there for advice, or to simply talk about legal ideas.
They tell you as lawyers that you never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. One time, I told Floyd I was getting ready for trial and I had no idea what any of the witnesses were going to say in response to my questions. “Should that be my opening statement?” Tell the jury I had no idea what they were going to hear.
“Yes,” he said, with some helpful remarks and encouragement.
And, he was always there to discuss some esoteric aspect of the law.
And, Floyd formally moved for my admission to the United States Supreme Court.
I got in. But, you know what? All that admission gets you, besides getting to argue before the United States Supreme Court, is admission to the Supreme Court Law Library.
Knowing this, on a trip to D.C., after buying a Supreme Court highball glass from the gift shop, I went to the Supreme Court front desk and told them I wanted admission to the law library. They said it was only for members of the court. I told them I was a member and they pointed me to the door down the hall.
I got kicked out of Harrod’s when I was 18 for not having any socks on (I was actually going there to buy some socks at the time), but I got into the Supreme Court Law Library without even having to show my I.D.
I do have to say: it is a pretty nice Law Library.
Anyway, after a few years, Floyd stopped showing up at the office. They had cut his pay and, lawyer that he was, claimed constructive discharge and stopped coming in. At that time, I had already decided to start my own firm.
So, one day, a week or three after he vanished, I showed up at Floyd’s house. I asked him if we could speak confidentially. He said yes, as I knew he would. I told him that a “few of us” were thinking of starting our own firm. We told him we could not pay him, but we could give him an office where he could continue practicing for as long as he wished.
He took the matter under advisement.
Within a week or so, he was back to work.
A month or so later, we broke off and formed our own firm. They were all surprised because Floyd had kept his word. He never told them about our conversation, because, of course he would not-he told me he would keep it in confidence.
Floyd was a good example of a number of things. But, perhaps the most important was that he knew when to quit. He knew when he could not do the job to the level he expected of himself (and what was necessary for the client), and that was the time to stop doing it.
Sometimes, wisdom does not come with age. It did with Floyd. And, if nothing else, I benefited from his example.