Lunch with Tyler Keyser

One of the gratifying things about this blog (in addition to pissing off . . .) is “meeting” with new and interesting people. I have come to consider a few of them dear friends, although we have never actually seen each other face to face.

Recently, I got an e-mail from Tyler Keyser, a portion of which reads like this: “I just graduated from Harvard Law School. Well, I’ve finished classes and exams, but they make us wait three weeks until they hand us our diplomas. You may recognize Harvard Law School as that other law school with a building named after Roscoe Pound.” (Italics by Tyler.)

The “other” reference was to a building named after Pound here at the University of Nebraska. Pound started at Nebraska earning a PhD in botany, a law degree and teaching at the Nebraska law school where he became the Dean. Of course, he moved on to Harvard and in 1916 became Dean of the Harvard Law School. The rest is history so they say.

I also learned that Tyler grew up in Nebraska and would be in Lincoln for a few days. I invited him to lunch with the law clerks and me on Monday. Turns out the Tyler grew up in Cambridge, Nebraska with a population of less than 1,100 people.  His dad was the superintendent of schools who has since moved to become superintendent of schools in Sutherland, Nebraska, with a population of 1,300 or so people.* His mom is a school teacher as well. Tyler, like Ryan Junck, is a small town boy with a brilliant mind. So, Tyler decided to go to a “big” college. He hit it out of the park at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska. “Nearly 1,200 students come to Hastings College from more than 20 U.S. states and eight countries around the world.” It is a liberal arts college located in the middle of Nebraska.

After Tyler graduated Hastings, he spent two years in New York City working for a large non-profit that helps poor people. He then applied to a variety of law schools, and was admitted to Harvard. He has a job after graduation. He will work for Ropes & Gray** in Boston starting out doing corporate work.

I predict Tyler will go along way. He is good-looking, brilliant, nice, humble, hard-working, and motivated to do good. He has an especially wry sense of humor. In short, Tyler’s mother and father should be very proud of him.

We had a very nice lunch. Tyler told us (somewhat shyly) about himself. Then, the law clerks each told him about their work and their backgrounds. The four lawyers I manage as law clerks range from about age 35 to about age 62. They have tons of experience. I asked those lawyers to give Tyler advice, and there was an interesting exchange. Tyler also listened in as we discussed cases. He did not seem too fazed by the jargon.

There was one weird thing that happened during the lunch. Tyler had bought Judge Urbom’s book. He asked me to sign the page where my photo appeared. I was flummoxed.  No one had ever asked me to sign a book before. So, without thinking too much (I do that frequently), and in my scrawled and childish handwriting using red ink, I wrote: “Good luck. Rich Kopf.”

Eloquent–not.  Here’s some more advice Tyler:  If you ever have to explain my note, say, “Kopf had gotten really senile by then.”

In summary, life takes us all through strange twists and turns. We cannot predict them and Tyler will find that out. But for me, I will always be glad that I bought Tyler a turkey sandwich one day in May, 2014.


*A  famous and horrible murder took place in Sutherland, Nebraska. On the evening of October 18, 1975, local police found the six members of the Henry Kellie family murdered in their home in Sutherland. Those murders were to result in a firestorm of national publicity and a criminal prosecution that later made important First Amendment law in the Supreme Court. See Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart427 U.S. 539 (1976) (To the extent that the trial judge’s order prohibited the reporting of evidence adduced at the open preliminary hearing held to determine whether the accused should be bound over for trial, it violated the settled principle that “there is nothing that proscribes the press from reporting events that transpire in the courtroom,” Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U. S. 333, 384 U. S. 362-363, and the portion of the order restraining publication of other facts “strongly implicative” of the accused is too vague and too broad to survive the scrutiny given to restraints on First Amendment rights.) I knew the prosecutor, Milton R. Larson, very well. Milt and I were good friends, we had commuted back and forth together about 50 miles each way to law school when our wives were teaching in Wilbur, Nebraska. Milt argued the case in the Supreme Court with the pro bono assistance of Erwin Nathaniel Griswold, who had served as Dean of the Harvard Law School and Solicitor General of the United States (1967–1973) under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Griswold took the case because Fred W. Friendly, one of America’s greatest journalists, had befriended Milt while covering the national story. Friendly came to like and respect Milt (he was really a sweet guy), he knew Milt needed big time help, and Friendly was well acquainted with Griswold.  I also knew Judge Stuart very well since I practiced in his district. His son, a decorated Marine Corps Colonel, is now First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska. I also had the privilege of debating a highly regarded editor (Gil Savery), who represented the Nebraska Press Association, before a large group of lawyers and press people at a Nebraska Bar Association meeting regarding whether Judge Stuart’s gag order, as modified by the Nebraska Supreme Court, was permissible. I thought it was (at least for the purposes of the debate). I argued that the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial trumped the interest of the press protected under the First Amendment inasmuch as the press was not precluded from attending and receiving the embargoed information (an alleged confession, for example). The early release of inadmissible evidence could effectively preclude a fair trial throughout the State of Nebraska given the national interest in the story. Furthermore, the press was not barred from getting the information, they were merely instructed to wait until inadmissible evidence could do no harm. By the way, the killer continues to be held in a psychiatric facility. A retrial (on grounds unrelated to the Nebraska Press Association case) was necessitated and change of venue was ordered sending the case some 200 miles to the east for trial in Lincoln. The Lincoln jury found that Erwin Charles Simants was insane.

**Tyler noted that Ropes & Gray has more lawyers than people who live in Cambridge, Nebraska where he grew up and about the same number of lawyers as the total student body at Hastings College.









4 responses

  1. Rich, those of us who love Hastings College and have attended it for four generations will follow Tyler’s career with interest. It was fun to read your slant on Simants, but you failed to mention the crucial role that Harry Strunk lake, just outside Cambridge where Tyler grew up, played in the Harold Nokes case. As I recall, both you and Joan commented on the strange goings-on in southwestern Nebraska when you read my first draft. Jim

  2. Jim,

    You are, as always, correct. Harry Strunk lake will be up soon. That is really strange case.

    Now that I think about it, why don’t you write a guest post. Please, please, please. Send it to me in your hand writing if you prefer, and I will have it typed into the platform. Or have Mary or Marge type your script into a Word document and send me the Word document over the e-mail, and I will load it, etc. Keep it to less than a 1,000 words if you can.

    I would like others to see your writing. But, if you decline, I will happily do it. Just let me know.

    All the best.


  3. Judge:
    Lovely story. It matters a great deal when a newly-minted attorney gets to spend time in the presence of veteran lawyers and a sitting federal judge. I expect that Mr. Keyser is likely to remember your kindness towards him for many years to come.

  4. Robert,

    As I have said before, it costs you very little to be kind to other people when you can. It always pays you back in spades. (That gushing causes me to think about retracting my rant on trigger warnings. Not gonna happen.)

    All the best.


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