So, for what it's worth, I'll now share that I phoned the Yale University historian Donald Kagan last spring at home.
He generously shared enough time for me to learn that he'd named his son Frederick after his best friend Frederick Marcham (who also had been my college advisor at Cornell University, where he'd been the longtime history department chairman and boxing coach).
More to the point, Kagan told me that he'd never heard of Elena Kagan until she became dean of Harvard Law School, and that she was no relation to him.
Here's an even better illustration of how pre-nomination research is just part of the democratic process, not an occasion for undue angst:
In 1979, I interviewed U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Jon O. Newman with information I'd dug up from newspaper clips about a dispute involving him in private practice years two decades previously. "Is that all you've got?!" he responded, with what I recall as a smile.
These days the legal and societal problems are vastly greater, and so there's less reason for humor. But we should at least remember that we don't have royalty in this country on the Supreme Court, although we do seem to have a lot of "courtiers."
At the swearing-in to the bar of a friend two decades ago, I heard the presiding federal judge encourage the new lawyers to practice their profession vigorously and without undue deference to the court.
I don't remember the judge's name, but do recall what he said: "A judge," his honor humbly told the assemblage, "is just a lawyer who knows a politician well enough to get nominated."
Judge Newman, a former top aide to Connecticut's Sen. Abe Ribicoff, has gone on to renown as one of the nation's most respected judges, and indeed as a giant in jurisprudence.
For the country's good, we wish the same for Elena Kagan, the 112th Supreme Court justice.
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