Thursday, March 16, 2006

Orin Kerr, Yale Law School, Herbert Packer, Dean Pollak

Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy has opened up his own blog, on "law, the legal academy, and the legal profession".

His post on Yale Law School and sixties was of great interest to this reader, particularly since Professor Herbert Packer of Stanford (at that time professor of law and vice provost for academic planning and programs at Stanford), for whom I was the student assistant at the time, was rumored to be in line to become Dean of Yale Law School (after Judge Louis Heilprin Pollak) until he suffered a massive stroke from which he never recovered in 1969. Packer was just barely over 40 years old.

One wonders what Yale Law School would be like today if the brilliant, dynamic, liberal but pragmatic Packer had been able to continue his illustrious career at Yale. I worked together with Herbert Packer long enough, both before and after the massive stroke which resulted in his substantial paralysis, to realize that the world of the law had lost a great man. Indeed, Professor John Kaplan, my subsequent mentor at Stanford, was so moved by this tragic event that he was unable to talk about it for years afterward.

Interesting in this connection is a book review by Dan T. Carter in the Alabama Review of Blood of the Liberals by George Packer, Herbert Packer's son (Farrar Straus & Giroux, NY, 2000, ISBN 0-374-25142-8).

Carter writes of that book as follows, suggesting that the brilliance of the father has passed on to the next generation:

"No review can begin to capture the subtleties, the insights, and the eloquence of George Packer's memoir. Historians often argue, sometimes unconvincingly, that an understanding of our past can illuminate the dilemmas of the present. I know of no book published in the last decade that fulfills that goal more eloquently. I can only urge the readers of The Alabama Review - whatever their political persuasion - to read Blood of the Liberals."

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