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Thursday, August 06, 2015

Prof. Robert A. Burt

I was very sorry to learn that Yale Law School Prof. Robert A. Burt ("Bo") passed away on August 3.  Here is a bit from Yale's announcement (quoting Prof. Anthony Kronman):

"The range of Bo's interests and accomplishments is startling enough. But what is more amazing still is that all of his writings express Bo's unfaltering belief in the value of conversation, dialogue and the continuing struggle to find common ground, and an abiding suspicion of authoritarianism in all its forms, whether it be a doctor's imperious prescription, or the Supreme Court's deaf assertion of power, or even God's declaration that he need not explain himself to anyone at all."

Kronman continued, "Bo's humane resistance to the reliance on mere power and his insistence that every type of authority, human or divine, is an interactive achievement, is the theme of all his writings. It represents the enduring achievement of this noble human being. It is there in his work for all to see. Still, I miss the man himself, and count his friendship among the best things that have ever happened to me."

Bo was a gentle, thoughtful, caring, generous, and deeply good man.  He was also my teacher, mentor, and friend.  I first "met" Bo in the pages of Prof. Joseph Goldstein's strange, but fascinating and provocative, Criminal Law casebook  , in which his brief in the Michigan case of Kaimowitz v. Michigan Department of Mental Health -- which involved experimental psychosurgery on a prisoner -- was excerpted.  He became for me, over the course of many conversations, a few classes, and my reading of several of his books, including The Constitution in Conflict, a model and an always-welcome challenge.  Like many others, I learned so much from him.  He shaped profoundly (but don't blame him!) what I think of as my academic vocation.  He set, and lived, a standard for teacher-scholars that I wish I could meet. 

The Yale Law School was fortunate, and many hundreds of YLS graduates are blessed, to have known, worked with, and learned from Robert Burt.  May the memory of this righteous one be a blessing.

Posted by Rick Garnett on August 6, 2015 at 01:13 PM in Rick Garnett | Permalink

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