A chance encounter with Justice Rehnquist

I have written about Jeffrey H. Kay before. With 42 years of government service as an FBI agent but mostly as a federal prosecutor, Jeff is a great source of knowledge.

William_RehnquistJeff recently wrote me about a chance encounter with Justice Rehnquist. It the quintessential vignette that, while brief and even innocuous at first glance, gives us a broader perspective.

Jeff allowed me to reprint his note, and here it is:

Judge- your story reminded me of a situation going back to the late 80’s. It was in August and a hot summer day in Florida, a fellow lawyer Jon May ( appellate lawyer-former AUSA) and I flew over to Tampa for a Florida Bar Committee meeting on a Saturday at the airport Marriott Hotel. following the meeting we went back over to the airport and since John was a member of the Eastern Airlines Frequent Flyer program we went into the First Class Lounge for a cold drink and sat down to wait for our TPA-FLL flight. There was not a sole in the lounge when we sat down. About 10 minutes later the doors open and in walks Justice Rehnquist with a law clerk and security people. John gave me a shot in the side and pointed across the lounge to the Justice. I was cool, big deal, John being the appeals lawyer was all excited. The Justice sat on the other side of the room. Shortly after I got up to walk over to the bar to get a refill on my coffee or soda as I approached the bar, so was the Justice, for reasons that I still cannot explain , I told him to order first and came out with, ” Justice good to see you, we are two lawyers from Fort Lauderdale”. Rehnquist looked at me and said, “Great, why don’t you come on over and sit with us”. I went back and grabbed John and we sat with Rehnquist for close to an hour talking law and the court. I still do not think John has washed his hand from shaking the Justice’s hand! He was very open and pleasant to us and we had a great talk with him. I saw a side of the person that one would never have known. One of the things he did mention to us was that he felt that young lawyers should be able to argue to the court rather than the partners who have no clue what the case is about!

The more the Justices get out and have encounters with the great unwashed, the greater respect we mere mortals will have for the Court. Even chance encounters can count for much.


3 responses

  1. Rehnquist was a great guy. He loved to sing, play cards and went to the movies all the time. Regular guy who happened to be first in his class at Stanford.

  2. I met Elena Kagan this March at Kramerbooks and Afterwords Bookstore/Cafe in DC when my wife and I were having Sunday brunch there. She was just like all the rest of us nerds checking out the non-fiction section. My wife was making fun of me about how excited I was. I didn’t do a “selife” because that’s not really my style, plus I suspected that the Justice wouldn’t appreciate a bunch of attention. Apparently Clarence Thomas can be sited at Bagels and Joe at 48th and Old Cheney in Lincoln at least once a year on Husker home game Saturdays.

  3. Jon,

    Thanks for writing. Interesting observations. Non-fiction? Read something for fun!

    All the best.


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