February 11, 2007

The outrage of J. Skelly Wright

I've spent some time reading A "Capacity for Outrage": The Judicial Odyssey of J. Skelly Wright by Arthur Selwyn Miller, without having to shell out $100 for the privilege.

Thanks to the goodness of Inter-Library Loan, my local library tracked down a copy at my old law school. It's the same copy I checked out over twenty years ago, once I was exposed to the judge in Contracts (remember the quantum meruit case?). The book doesn't seem to have circulated much in the intervening years, which is a pity. Perhaps if Judge Wright were better known today, passages like this wouldn't sound so, well, quaint:

(B)ecause of the Skelly Wrights on our courts, (the American people) repose with confident security, with a knowledge that under the laws of this country there is a limit that oppression cannot transgress, that no governmental entity or individual can punish them without being reviewed by a judgment of a duly constituted court impartially applying the laws of our land.

He was a rare judicial individual:

Judge Wright can be labeled a judicial activist and a judicial realist. He knows that judges inevitably have a certain power in our system and he uses the power to try to help people who need help in our unjust society... I would say that his judicial career has been a paradigm of the way judges should be aware of those excluded from society's benefits.

We may not see his likes again.