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By Gerry Boyle '78
It almost seemed that Morton A. Brody had a hand in selecting the first recipient of the award established in his name.
Brody, a U.S. District Court judge, and husband of Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Judith Levine Brody '58, died in March 2000. A long-time Waterville resident, he appeared in a video interview shown April 18 at the presentation of the first Morton A. Brody Distinguished Judicial Service Award, an event attended by many members of the Maine judiciary, College officials, students, Brody family members and friends. "Judges are called upon to make balancing tests all the time," Brody said, "but the most important balancing test of all, it seems to me, is maintaining the human qualities of the person under the robe and the professional responsibilities of the robed judge who sits on the bench."
The first recipient of the award, Guido Calabresi, has endeavored to pass that test.
An Italian immigrant, United States Circuit judge and former dean of Yale Law School, Calabresi said he was particularly pleased to be chosen for the award because of the qualities that Brody exemplified. "I tried as dean to make excellence, with humanity and decency, be the motto of my school," Calabresi said. "I would say to the students, 'Excellence alone is evil.' When you put excellence together with decency, humanity and compassion, then you have hope. Then you have what we strive to be."
He went on to discuss the Supreme Court decision that, in effect, awarded the presidential election to George W. Bush when the court found a violation of equal protection under the law but did not send the ballot-count case back to Florida officials. Calabresi saw little excellence in that decision, calling it "unprincipled" and "an opinion that doesnt stand for anything."
Calabresi acknowledged that there are times when a judge must rule in order to achieve the right result, even if there is no legal principle to support the ruling. This was not one of those cases, he said. "If it had been Bush. v. Hitler. . . ," the judge said.
He acknowledged that the Supreme Court was working under time pressure, but he maintained that pressure does not exonerate it or excuse a decision with no legal underpinning when there were principled options available, including sending the case to Congress or Florida, sending the election back for a recount without time constraints or letting the vote stand.
How to arrive at a right decision? "You wake up in the middle of the night and you struggle, Calabresi said. And you try to see if there is a principled way of coming out in the way you think is right. And you wrestle with it. You work harder. You think and you argue with yourself, you look and you dig. . . . There are times when there is nothing you can do about it. . . . " It's frustrating because the law is not the way you would want it. But you are limited by the principle and you follow it."
The art of judging, he said, "is waking up in the middle of the night, wrestling with it, because you are limited, because principle guides you. If you do that, you are a judge in the memory, style and manner of the man we honor today."
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Alumni Reunion 2001
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