Academic journal article Texas Law Review

Dedication: William Wayne Justice: The Life of the Law

Academic journal article Texas Law Review

Dedication: William Wayne Justice: The Life of the Law

Article excerpt

Lynn E. Blais*

Judge Justice has finally returned to Austin. After spending his college and law school years here, the Judge left for more than half a century. First he served in the Army during World War II, and then he settled down in East Texas. While in East Texas, he married Mrs. Sue Justice and had a daughter, Ellen. And he practiced law in both the public and private sector, and served for thirty-one years on the federal bench. Now, he has come back, having taken senior status as a federal judge so that he and Mrs. Justice can be near his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

What a wonderful opportunity the Judge's return presents for our students. As Oliver Wendell Holmes is renowned for observing, "[t]he life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience."1 By this, the great jurist meant that the law evolves with "the felt necessities of the time," and "embodies the story of a nation's development .... Important chapters in this story were written in Judge Justice's courtroom. To be sure, Judge Justice's legal opinions are replete with the unassailable logic that is generated by the pensive application of a razor-sharp intellect. But, more important, his opinions and his legal life-the life inside his courtroomevidence the accumulated wisdom of a man of great character who has fought for a lifetime to protect the principles and ideals inherent in our constitutional republic. I urge all of our students to spend time during their law school years in Judge Justice's courtroom. For it is in courtrooms like his that the life of the law is found.

The Judge's judicial legacy is well known: He forced the integration of the public schools in Texas3 that were recalcitrant in the face of Brown v. Board of Education;4 he required the State to correct the unsafe, degrading, and inhumane conditions that were commonplace in Texas penal institutions;5 he compelled the desegregation of the State's public housing communities;6 he protected the rights of Texas's detained juveniles' and its mentally retarded citizens;8 and he rejected its legislators' attempts to restrict the free speech rights of labor unionists.9 Along the way he also had something to say about such things as hair length" and latrine design."

But how did that legacy come to be? What is it about Judge Justice that would lead a small town lawyer to become one of the most influential jurists in Texas (and even in the United States)? It is my belief that the Judge became a principal in Texas history by virtue of his three outstanding qualities: his legal acumen, his reverence for the rule of law, and his extraordinary sense of compassion.

First, the Judge is a highly skilled lawyer, and the standard he sets in his courtroom reflects his personal knowledge of the power of exemplary legal representation. The Judge learned to practice law, quite literally, at his father's knee. His father, Mr. Will Justice, was well known in East Texas as the perhaps the best all-around lawyer of his era. Mr. Will is still so revered among the criminal defense bar that he was posthumously selected as one of the first lawyers to be inducted into the Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys' Hall of Fame.'2 As a child, the Judge watched his father work assiduously in the evenings and on weekends, and he started helping out in his father's law office as a young teenager."3 After the war, he practiced with his father and the late Bill Kugle for many years, honing his skills and taking full advantage of his father's willingness to share his wisdom and expertise. To this day, the Judge recounts stories of Mr. Will's prowess-stories that still instruct the young lawyers who are serving as the Judge's law clerks. And, of course, the Judge served as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas for seven years, during which time he managed a large and varied caseload. From this background, the Judge knows first hand the quality of legal representation that hard work and commitment to one's client can produce, and he expects no less from the attorneys in his courtroom-each and every time they file papers or appear before him. …

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