A Lesson I Suddenly Remember

It must have been 25 years ago. I was in Minneapolis being a reporter and covering an appearance by Justice Harry Blackmun who grew up on Dayton’s Bluff in St. Paul. He gave a speech, then took questions.

Justice Harry Blackmun

It was one of those times (isn’t it always one of those times) when there was a vacancy or soon-to-be vacancy on the Supreme Court. Someone asked him what a new member of the Supreme Court needs to have.

We probably all expected him to give us a little lecture. That’s why we came, right? He would say, “Well, a nominee for the Supreme Court must have a respect for precedent.” Or he’d say, “The nominee must have the judicial sense to balance a need for this with the need for that.”

But he gave us a one-word answer. Integrity.

That’s what a justice has to have. I think about that in the time of Trump because I realize that’s also what a President needs. We never talk about it but when we get someone who doesn’t have it, that sucks.

 

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