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Authors: Steiker, Carol S.
Keywords: J. Skelly Wright
Atticus Finch
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Citation: 61 Loy. L. Rev. 125
Abstract: After serving as a law clerk first for Skelly Wright and then—with the assistance of Judge Wright I am sure—for Justice Thurgood Marshall, I worked for four years as a public defender before joining the legal academy. In that role, I found that I shared with many other public defenders (at least with other white public defenders) a childhood fascination with Atticus Finch, the white lawyer hero of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, immortalized in the film version by Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance. Atticus was a good man, honest and kind; he was a good father, loving and forthright; and he was a good lawyer, who courageously and skillfully represented a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town in the 1930s. We public defenders were hardly idiosyncratic in our admiration for Atticus Finch: in 2003, the American Film Institute named him the greatest movie hero of all time. Thus you may be surprised to learn, as I was, that Professor and former law school Dean Monroe Freedman, one of the country’s leading legal ethicists until his recent death, questioned whether Atticus Finch deserves to be venerated as a role model for lawyers. Indeed, one of Freedman’s pieces is provocatively titled Atticus Finch, Esq., R.I.P. In past years, I have presented Freedman’s indictment of Atticus during orientation for new Harvard law students to provoke thinking and discussion about what lawyers should aspire to do and to be. In preparing for this event in Judge Wright’s honor today, however, I realized that Freedman’s criticism of Atticus Finch’s shortcomings offers a roadmap for celebrating some of Skelly Wright’s extraordinary virtues. Thus, I will consider the three most significant charges that Freedman levels against Atticus in order to illuminate Judge Wright’s special qualities and accomplishments.
ISSN: 0192-9720
Appears in Collections:Law Review

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