Thursday, September 07, 2006

An Interview with the Angels of Justice Sullivan’s Better Nature

Q: Justice Sullivan, how do you feel now that you’ve been thoroughly humiliated?

A: There’s a point at which you sense that the pack is after you. So you look around, consult your closest friends; and then you realize with a shutter that they are the pack. Of course, if you’ve screwed up, everything’s hopeless; now they have you in their jaws. Resentment runs deep in our characters, and lawyers are by nature and disposition disputatious folk.

Q: At the hearing, your lawyer seemed a little harsh with Justices Borden and Palmer.

A: That’s the packaging. You have to look past it to see the truth.

Q: Which is?

A: I screwed up. I did seek to withhold information from those in the legislature who were engaged in certifying the nomination of Justice Zarella as Chief Justice. In the end, that information, by itself, could not have torpedoed the nomination. It was a piece of stupidity I regret. But that is only part of the truth. On the other side, is there any doubt that Justices Borden and Palmer were determined to use my screw up to vacate that nomination and hoist Borden into that position?

Q: You realize that here you are accusing fellow justices of ambition?

A: Well, this is an angelic dialogue. We are sworn to tell the truth.

Q: Ambitious justices? Really?

A: Under the judicial robes are human beings, subject to all the shocks of human nature – including ambition. Brutus, you know, wants to be well thought of, even as he is plunging the dagger into Caesar’s chest. So far, I am the only wrong doer in this affair who has confessed publicly to wrong doing. But I’ve only given a partial answer to your first question – which is an important one.

Q: Don’t let me interrupt, please …

A: The hearing itself was Damascus moment -- the judge judged, the judge in the dock – an experience I recommend to all judges. It forced me to re-read Albert Camus’ novel The Fall. Do you know that one?

Q: I have a hazy recollection of it. Required reading in college, you know.

A: The anti-hero of the novel is a judge who has screwed up – royally. Passing a bridge one night, he is faintly aware that a suicide has occurred. He brushes by an agitated woman, who then jumps into a river. They are alone on the bridge; he is the sole witness to the suicide. He hears the splash, hears her screams – and does nothing. Crushed by this horror, he becomes what he calls “a judge penitent,” whose court is a seedy bar in the Netherlands. There he waylays strangers, and confesses the truth – about everything. That is how people who have screwed up royally save their souls – by being brutally honest, first with themselves and then with others.

Q: And have you reached that point?

A: To be honest, no. It takes a good deal of suffering to purge the imagination, so that the truth may be permitted to show itself.

Q: What are your plans now?

A: To seek out a purgation of some kind, so that I might know the truth. I have a feeling it might be found in suffering. That is something prisoners know that judges do not know.

Q: And then, when the period of purgation is finished?

A: I’ll find a different kind of bar than judges know, in some wild, half forsaken place – not the Netherlands -- some place closer to home. There, I’ll waylay truth seekers, and pile them up with more truth than they care to know. There is a kind of vengeance in truth telling too, you know.

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