Judge Stucky, speaking about how CMA obtained its courthouse in 1952 after the D.C. Circuit moved to new digs, called it a pure, unadulterated “deal” struck between CMA’s first Chief Judge — Robert Quinn, the former governor of Rhode Island — and President Harry Truman. Quinn used his access to Truman to wrestle the building away from the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, which, at the time, was graciously sharing its courtroom with CMA and which had been slated to move into the D.C. Circuit’s old courthouse. “The reaction of the CCPA judges is not recorded,” Judge Stucky observed slyly. That anecdote captured the tone of yesterday’s CAAF session commemorating the courthouse’s centennial: informative and enjoyable.
The ceremony began with remarks by Chief Judge Effron and Chief Judge Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit. (Chief Judge Sentelle had very warm words for the universally beloved late Judge Robinson Everett.) Then Chief Justice Roberts, Chief Judge Effron, and Chief Judge Sentelle unveiled a handsome plaque to be displayed in the courtroom’s Grand Foyer listing the names of the 20 D.C. Circuit judges and the 21 CAAF/CMA judges who served in the courthouse during its first 100 years. At the bottom of the plaque are the words, “Fiat Justitia,” which I believe is Latin for “Let justice be done.” Chief Justice Roberts then had to leave for Justice Sotomayor’s investiture.
Then came the heart of the ceremony: a speech by Judge Stucky titled, “The Courthouse as a Building” and a speech by Professor Steven Goldblatt titled, “Significant Cases Heard in the Courtroom.” Both were wonderful. Judge Stucky provided a history of the building and also an interesting discussion of its architecture. The speech was delivered in typically engaging Judge Stucky fashion. He noted that the courtroom was originally lit by a skylight in the ceiling, but it was roofed over in 1956. Pause. “Because it leaked.” Professor Goldblatt’s presentation was built on the theme that during their time in the courthouse, both the D.C. Circuit and CAAF had transformed themselves into tribunals with greater national significance than they had when each first moved into the courthouse. Fortunately both sets of remarks will be published in the Military Justice Reporter. I recommend reading both when they become available.
My only disappointment is that no one mentioned the Darlington Fountain, which stands in the park immediately south of the courthouse. When one looks out the window of the judges’ conference room, one sees the glinting naked behind of a gilded nymph. Jacob Stein tells an amusing story about why the statue in the fountain honoring D.C. lawyer Joseph Darlington might face away from what was once the D.C. Circuit’s courthouse: “Darlington’s greatest successes were in the trial courts, but the U.S. Court of Appeals often reversed cases he had won and sent them back for retrial. Perhaps, one of Darlington’s friends noted, that is why the nymph’s behind faces the old U.S. Court of Appeals.”