Brennan’s Bust: Correcting the Record


In September, I wrote about a bust of Justice Brennan displayed outside the New Jersey Supreme Court’s courtroom in Trenton. I noted, “The bust rests on sculptured version of several volumes of what are labeled the ‘Supreme Court Reporter.'” Turns out I was wrong to suggest “the numbers the sculptor etched into the volumes are completely random.”

Jon Bailey, the artist who made the sculpture, posted a correction on the blog last week and we exchanged emails in which he explained the citations weren’t random at all. After deciding that he wanted the bust to appear on a stack of books, Bailey asked the Brennan Center for Justice for suggestions about the justice’s most influential opinions.

“84 S. Ct. 210″ depicts the volume of the Supreme Court Reporter containing Brennan’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan while “82 S. Ct. 691″ is the volume with his decision in Baker v. Carr.

I had incorrectly looked for the volume of the U.S. Reports containing those citations and wound up finding cases from the 19th century. Bailey explained he intentionally referenced the Supreme Court Reporter “since I thought the non-lawyer would see ‘Supreme Court’ in the name and understand their purpose more readily.”

The other two books at the base of the sculpture reference cases from Brennan’s tenure on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Bailey says he had asked New Jersey’s then Chief Justice Deborah Poritz or the clerk of the court for advice about which cases to include.

Bailey was gracious about my error and said he liked my idea of visiting sites around New Jersey with meaning to Brennan.

“This warm, caring champion of the common man is quite worthy of such a pilgrimage,” Bailey wrote. “I hope you start a trend.”

One Response to “Brennan’s Bust: Correcting the Record”

  1. Jade Wandell says:

    While in law school both the Sullivan and Baker decisions were those evil 50+ page cases that only the bravest (or most masochistic) law students fought through. While painful at the time, Brennan’s language made them both memorable and worth the effort. I like the fact that Bailey made a point to reference them in his sculpture. A sort of modern day DaVinci.

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