In the title of this blog, I refer, as Chief Justice John Roberts did in his confirmation hearing, to a judge as an “umpire.” It turns out that Chief Justice Roberts was not the first Justice to have had such a thought. Justice Robert Jackson expressed a similar sentiment in 1951:
These men [Learned and Augustus Hand] found their highest satisfaction in judicial work. It fulfilled their every ambition. They put all they had into it—they have not shirked even its drudgery. They wrote their opinions with no appeal for applause and sought only to merit the ultimate approval of their profession. They have not been looking over their shoulders to see whom they please. They have represented an independent and intellectually honest judiciary at its best. And the test of an independent judiciary is a simple one—the one you would apply in choosing an umpire for a baseball game. What do you ask of him? You do not ask that he shall never make a mistake or always agree with you, or always support the home team. You want an umpire who calls them as he sees them. And that is what the profession has admired in the Hands.
Robert H. Jackson, Why Learned and Augustus Hand Became Great (December 13, 1951) (speech before the American Bar Association) (emphasis added by italics).
Chief Justice Roberts clerked for Justice William Rehnquist, who, of course, later became Chief Justice. Rehnquist clerked for Justice Jackson during the 1952–1953 term.
The law is like a never-ending river. That comforts me.
PS Many thanks to Daniel H. Borinsky for the tip.