Friday, February 03, 2006

A Tale of Two Justices

Educated in law at the knee of his uncle, William Samuel Pryor quickly mastered Greek and Latin. But he never obtained much in the way of a formal education the way most boys did. He was poor and had to help support his family. A brilliant student at law, he was ready to hang out his shingle before he was twenty-one years old. So his uncle and his friends got the state legislature about 1843 to pass a special act to allow Will that privilege.

Will was good at law and quickly built up a substantial practice in his town. Then President Lincoln had him tossed in jail in 1863. Will escaped and went to Canada. Returning to his practice in 1866, Will was appointed a judge of the circuit court. He rode his circuit for three years, became popular, and suddenly found himself chief justice of the highest court in Kentucky. He served on that bench longer than anyone before or after—sometimes chief justice and sometimes associate justice. To do so he had to give up his lucrative practice and accept an income that was about one third of what he could make in private practice. But Will loved the law.

It is easy to imagine that Justice Samuel Alito is much the same way. He was poor but found his way through good schools to serve his nation in the legal system. Justice Alito certainly could have commanded a much larger income than the government paid him. But he loved the law and wanted to serve as a judge.

Like William Samuel Pryor, Justice Samuel Alito had his own tribulations as he worked his way to his present position. In spite of his fine career and service as judge he was falsely accused of things just so someone could make points with his constituency. He had to sit and bear the unjustness of a few windbags in the Senate. But in the end he was finally approved by that body. Very likely it was his love for the law that kept him going through that grueling time.

Now that Justice Alito has found his place on the U. S. Supreme Court many of us wish hi well and we feel confident that a very good man has been selected. And that a few very sad examples of Senators have been exposed for what they are.

Somewhere in time William Samuel Pryor has a smile on his face.

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