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The US Supreme Court: Abe Fortas



Hank Greely says: "As to Abe Fortas, I have mixed feelings. He did not have, in his personal life and particularly in his dealings with Louis Wolfson, the kind of personal integrity one would have liked in anyone, let alone a Supreme Court justice. On the other hand, he was an intelligent and fairly effective Justice who would certainly have been better than the eventual to Earl Warren as chief justice, the out-of-his-depth Warren Earl Burger.

I met Fortas once. The summer after my second year of law school, about eight years after Fortas resigned from the Court, I worked as a summer clerk for an excellent Washington D.C. law firm called Arnold and Porter (formerly Arnold, Fortas, and Porter). After resigning from the Supreme Court, Fortas did not return to his old law firm, but was involved in law practice in Washington, either as a partner or in the looser "of counsel" relationship with another firm (I can't remember which one). His wife, Carolyn Agger, however, remained a partner at Arnold and Palmer. She was a tax attorney, noted for her love of fine (particularly Cuban - and hence illegal) cigars. She hosted a firm party for the summer associates at her home. Justice Fortas attended and was, not surprisingly, a center of interest for the 20 or so summer clerks who attended. Fortas paid remarkable attention to those clerks - well, to two of them, two very attractive young women (both from Stanford Law School, coincidentally). As far as I could tell, his attentions to them did not become grossly inappropriate, but they appeared, coming from a man in his 70s, "unseemly." Or, at least, so it seemed to at least one 24 year old male. I never much cared for Fortas after that. I wonder if I'll change my mind when I turn 70?"

My comment; Hank, we will keep an eye on you. Did Abe Fortas resign in disgust from the Supreme Court?

Ronald Hilton - 9/9/02


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