Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brennan biographer at the law school

Stephen Wermiel, American University Washington College of Law professor and half of the writing team of the recent Brennan biography, will speak about his book, Brennan, the Court (past, present, future) and his own career at the law school today at 12:20 PM.

I got a sneak preview last night when the law school chapter of the American Constitution Society took Wermiel out to Sava's. Highlights from dinner:
  • Brennan's selection of Wermiel to write his biography;
  • Dahlia Lithwick's Times review criticizing how long it took Wermiel to publish the book, as well as the unintended positive effects the delay had on the final product;
  • the decision to include Brennan's wife's struggle with alcoholism in the biography;
  • Brennan and Scalia's scholarly opposition about the interpretation of the Eleventh Amendment;
  • the lingering possibility of the Roberts court declaring the health care act unconstitutional, even after Comstock, a 2010 decision emphasizing (perhaps strengthening) Congress' power to legislate under the Necessary and Proper Clause; and
  • the decline of collegiality on the Court, as evidenced by Justice Roberts shushing Justice Ginsberg in a recent oral argument.
Looking forward to seeing what else Wermiel will talk about.

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: during the talk today, Wermiel also discussed Brennan's contribution to making gender an almost-protected legal class. He juxtaposed the Justice's constitutional vision with his reluctance to hire women clerks and this 1969 quote from the biography: "If a woman ever got nominated to the Court, Brennan predicted, he might have to resign."

    Dean Caminker, who served as Brennan's clerk in 1986-87, came to his late boss' defense: "It was because of his wife. He thought his wife wouldn't want him to have women clerks."