Academic journal article Notre Dame Law Review

Keynote Address: Two Challenges for the Judge as Umpire: Statutory Ambiguity and Constitutional Exceptions

Academic journal article Notre Dame Law Review

Keynote Address: Two Challenges for the Judge as Umpire: Statutory Ambiguity and Constitutional Exceptions

Article excerpt

I am honored to be back at Notre Dame Law School. This is one of the very best law schools in the United States. I love coming here. I thank the Law Review for hosting this symposium in honor of Justice Scalia. I am grateful to Professor Barrett for the generous introduction and for her outstanding scholarship and teaching at this law school. She is an inspiration to her students and an inspiration to me. I thank my many friends on the faculty for being here. I want to single out my longtime friend and colleague Bill Kelley. We have worked together on many challenging assignments in the past. He is a special person and a great teacher, scholar, and lawyer. I am proud to be his friend.

I am Catholic. This university holds a special place in the hearts and minds of most American Catholics, and it represents the best of the Catholic educational tradition. That tradition is one that emphasizes service--caring for the poor, the neglected, the vulnerable. It lives out the Gospel of Matthew and teaches that your most important duty is to take care of the least of your brothers and sisters. At the same time, this university's tradition is one of inclusiveness, of welcoming people of all faiths and beliefs. And the tradition is one of teaching and learning, always probing and studying and thinking about how to make our country and our world a better place.

When I received the invitation to be here, 1 will admit that I glanced at the schedules for both the women's and men's basketball teams and hoped I might be able to catch a game. Alas, no home games this week. I recall that my very first trip to Notre Dame was almost exactly thirty years ago to the day to watch Notre Dame play against then-number-one North Carolina in men's basketball. I was here with a bunch of my Georgetown Prep high school friends who went to Notre Dame. Notre Dame upset North Carolina, and it was a raucous scene and a wild weekend. Fortunately, there was no social media back then.

Just a couple of nights ago, Neil Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court. Neil and I actually went to high school together at Georgetown Prep. I was two years ahead of him. And then we clerked together the same year for justice Kennedy and got to know each other very well. We worked together in the Bush Administration, and we both became judges in 2006. We serve together now on the Appellate Rules Committee of the Judicial Conference, and were coauthors along with Bryan Garner and several other judges of a book on precedent. (1) Don't try to read that book all at once is my only piece of advice. So I know Neil Gorsuch well and have known him seemingly forever. He is a good friend. He is kind, funny, hard working, and brilliant. He's a great writer and independent. With his smarts, his character, and his understanding of life and law, I firmly believe he will be one of the great Justices in Supreme Court history, like a Jackson or a Scalia. Watching him the other night, I felt immensely and overwhelmingly proud of him. And proud of Georgetown Prep, I might add.

Neil was of course nominated to replace Justice Scalia, for whom we are gathered here. I do not want to overstate my relationship with Justice Scalia. But I loved the guy. For starters, lie was always so funny when I saw him at dinners or legal events or anywhere. He had a magnificent wit and put everyone at ease. But beyond that, Justice Scalia was and remains a judicial hero and role model to many throughout America. He thought carefully about his principles, he articulated those principles, and he stood up for those principles. As a judge, he did not buckle to political or academic pressure from the right or the left. He was fiercely independent.

For many decades, moreover, he tirelessly and at substantial financial sacrifice devoted himself to public service, teaching, and lecturing. We all benefited from that. If you asked him to do something, he said yes if there was any way he could possibly do it. …

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