Tag Archives: James M. Marsh

Jackson List: Justices & the World Series

For the Jackson List:

United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a Chicago native, has been rooting for the Chicago Cubs almost since they last won a World Series—that was in 1908, just twelve years before Stevens was born.

As Justice Stevens explained in a great interview posted on SCOTUSblog this morning (click here), he has seen many Cubs baseball games in Wrigley Field.  On October 1, 1932, for example, he attended the third game of that year’s World Series and witnessed Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot” home run … and thus saw the New York Yankees beat the Cubs, 7-5, on their way to sweeping that World Series.

On that day in 1932, a man named James M. Marsh, age nineteen, was listening to that game on the radio in western Pennsylvania and keeping score in his scorebook.  Fifteen years later, Jim Marsh was clerking for Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Supreme Court.  Marsh became a close friend of John Stevens, who was clerking then for Justice Wiley Rutledge.  Marsh learned of Stevens’s love for the Cubs, and that he had seen Babe Ruth hit the called shot.  In time, Marsh located his 1932 scorecard and gave it to Stevens.  Justice Stevens then displayed it on the wall of his Supreme Court chambers.

In contrast to Stevens and Marsh (and many of us), Justice Robert H. Jackson was no baseball fan.  In 1951, for example, when Major League Baseball had leadership troubles and Jackson was reported to be under consideration to become its next commissioner, he found the idea distasteful.

In summer 1950, as Jackson was preparing to take a cross-country train trip with his friend Harrison Tweed, a leading New York City lawyer, and he wrote Jackson to suggest that they see a baseball game on a layover day in Chicago, Jackson wrote back immediately, voting no:

Personally, I don’t care much about baseball and haven’t seen a game in a good many years.  Why don’t we take our chances on what we can do during the day[?]  Maybe some good friend like [Chicago lawyer] Tap Gregory will come to our rescue.  I may get in touch with him.

Two summers early, indeed while Jim Marsh was beginning his second year as Jackson’s law clerk, Jackson commented privately, and not approvingly, that Babe Ruth’s death had garnered more news attention than had the death of Tweed’s law partner Walter Hope.  (Really.)

But Justice Jackson did have a near-brush with the Chicago Cubs, and, indeed, with the Cubs in the World Series.  In early October 1945, beginning on the 6th of the month, Jackson was working in Berlin, in preparation for the impending prosecution of Nazi war criminals that he would be leading in Nuremberg.  Jackson kept busy during the next four days with numerous meetings, some social occasions, and his own work.  But really he was waiting for U.S. and other nations’ judges to arrive in Berlin so that the International Military Tribunal could hold its first session there (in the Soviet zone of military occupation), formally receiving the prosecutors’ indictment of the defendants, before adjourning to Nuremberg (in the U.S. zone) to conduct the trial.

By October 10, 1945, Jackson, knowing that he had much work to do in Nuremberg, was fed up with waiting around in Berlin.  He left two of his deputies to continue the work there.  Jackson had command of a military plane, and he ordered it to fly him and some of his team that evening to Nuremberg.

During the flight, Justice Jackson stayed in his seating area on the plane, I am sure.  But others, including his son and executive assistant Bill Jackson, crowded around the cockpit.  They managed to listen there to a radio broadcast of the final game of the World Series, which was being played in Wrigley Field.  (Alas for Cubs fans such as then-first year law student John Paul Stevens, just back in Chicago and civilian life after four years of wartime service in the U.S. Navy, the Detroit Tigers won that World Series game seven, beating the Chicago Cubs, 9-3, and thus the Series.)

In 2016, the long wait of Justice Stevens and all Cubs fans for a World Series championship is compelling.

It bears at least passing note, however, that another Justice, Harold H. Burton (1888-1964), would be rooting the other way.  Justice Burton was colleague of Justice Jackson and Justice Rutledge on the Court, and Burton was everyone’s model of judicial diligence and fairness.  Harold Burton had served as Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1935 until 1940.  He then became a U.S. Senator from Ohio, serving from 1941 until he resigned following his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Justice Burton was commissioned a Supreme Court justice on September 22, 1945.

That autumn, seventy-one years ago, was only three years before the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs’ opponent this year, won their most recent World Series.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Robert B. von Mehren (1922-2016)

Robert Brandt von Mehren, one of New York’s and the nation’s leading lawyers, especially in the field of arbitration, died on May 5th at age 93.  He was a retired partner in the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm, a Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard resident, and a man of brilliance and, I found, charm and kindness.

In recent years, I spoke and emailed a few times with Mr. von Mehren as I was researching and writing an essay, “No College, No Prior Clerkship,” on James M. Marsh, Justice Robert H. Jackson’s 1947-1949 law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court.  (Click here for an abstract of the essay, and click here to buy the new book, Of Courtiers and Kings: More Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices, in which my essay appears along with many strong pieces and a range of fascinating material.)

I contacted Mr. von Mehren because he was a cameo player in the process by which Justice Jackson hired Jim Marsh.

In 1946, von Mehren was clerking for Judge Learned Hand at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  Prior to that, as a Harvard Law School student, von Mehren compiled a tremendous academic record, including serving as president of the Harvard Law Review.  Unbeknownst to von Mehren, someone—probably Jackson’s incumbent law clerk, Murray Gartner, himself a former Harvard Law Review president—had flagged von Mehren for Jackson’s consideration to be Gartner’s successor as Jackson’s law clerk.  Jackson was (properly) very impressed with von Mehren’s credentials, but in the end Jackson ranked von Mehren second to Marsh and hired him.

This all was news, and interesting, to Mr. von Mehren.  He told me that he never applied to or interviewed with Jackson.

It all worked out.  Justice Stanley Reed hired von Mehren to be his law clerk in that Supreme Court year (October Term 1947).  As Reed’s clerk, von Mehren got to see Justice Jackson and all of the Justices of that era (Vinson, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Rutledge and Burton were the others) in action.  And von Mehren got to know and like Jackson’s clerk, Jim Marsh.

Justice Reed law clerk Robert von Mehren O.T. 1947

Von Mehren during his clerkship

with Justice Reed

Von Mehren’s path was a notable rise from remote beginnings.  He and his identical twin brother Arthur were born in Albert Lea, a city in southern Minnesota, in August 1922.  The boys grew up fluent in English, of course, and in Danish and Norwegian (hat tip:  Daniel R. Coquillette).  (Ninety-two years later, I could hear a trace of that—Robert pronounced his name “fun-MAY-won” in a soft European accent).

In high school, Robert won a scholarship to Yale University, from which he graduated summa cum laude.  At Harvard Law School, he graduated magna cum laude.  After clerking for the great Judge Hand and for the very capable Justice Reed, he became associated with Debevoise, his professional home for most of his career.  (Luckily, because it’s more and worthy information, his law firm webpage is still “up”—click here.)

(And Arthur?  He attended Harvard University and then, with Robert, Harvard Law School.  He also earned a Harvard Ph.D. in Government, joined the Harvard Law School faculty, and became one of its giants—click here for one memorial and here for one obituary following his death in 2006.)

For more on Robert von Mehren’s accomplished and full life, click here and here.

May he rest in peace.

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