No man is an island.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Aug. 7 2006 12:47 PM

No Man Is an Island

Anthony Kennedy's surprising charge to the American Bar Association.

(Continued from Page 1)

We cannot sell this cold, rational notion of justice and democracy and—as he warns these lawyers—"You can make this case. You must make this case."

Kennedy's inability to find certain, easy answers and his tendency to hold grandiose hopes for the law are fodder for his detractors. This is the Kennedy of Casey, and Lawrence, and Rapanos, and it's the Kennedy that plows up fields of constitutional law and sows seeds of confusion and inscrutable grandeur in their place. This is the Kennedy who drives conservatives nuts with his notion that the courts must fight injustice, regardless of the messiness that ensues. But as he concludes with the charge that our freedom rests on our ability to sell the world on democracy, the crowd is on its feet.

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Maybe the fact that Kennedy is suddenly experiencing his moment in the sun isn't just a historical accident of a four-four court with a guy in the middle who can't seem to make up his mind. Perhaps this country is actually ready for what he's selling: the twin notions that the world is an enormous, embattled, struggling place and that the law has a responsibility to try to fix it. Not just in service of the Constitution, but in the service of freedom.