Academic journal article Journal of Appellate Practice and Process

The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process: Foreword

Academic journal article Journal of Appellate Practice and Process

The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process: Foreword

Article excerpt

READING BROWN

I'm not sure that I read Brown in law school. It was excerpted, I think, in my constitutional law textbook, and I suppose that Professor Rapaczynski talked about it sometime during the spring semester ... of maybe it was Professor Schmidt in the fall. I did not, alas, attend class as often as I might have, so it's hard for me to say. I remember, however, that I was disinclined to pay much attention to Brown because I already knew what it stood for and what it told us about our history, our country, and ourselves.

That's what I thought.

And now I know that I was wrong.

Perhaps it's only the passage of time, middle age prompting me to see a world whose workings are knotted with a complexity that escaped my younger self. Of maybe it's that the law as I thought I knew it--engine of social change, protector of individual rights, fierce handmaiden of justice and truth--itself looks middle aged: tired, soft, and going gray. Whatever the reason, Brown sounds different now. It radiates energy and conviction, and it's suffused with something that reads a lot like hope. Because we don't hear much of hope today, the effect is bracing.

The last fifty years have given us an appreciation of Brown's weaknesses, of course, notable among them the limitations of the research on which it was based and the ambiguity of the Court's eventual directive, which turned out to inspire rather more deliberation than speed. But something in the text still beckons, suggesting a future that we have yet to see.

As you have by now deduced, I read Brown this spring, and I was so surprised by my encounter with the Supreme Court's actual language that I encourage you to forget for the moment what you think you know about Brown, turn the page, and read it for yourself. …

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