On April 15, the Law School celebrated 75 years of the Brooklyn Law Review with a dinner held at the Forchelli Center at Feil Hall and a captivating speech by Jeffrey Toobin, senior legal analyst for CNN and staff writer at The New Yorker. Toobin was welcomed by nearly 200 Law Review alumni and current Law Review students from as far away as Miami and Montreal.
Dean Joan G. Wexler welcomed faculty, students, and alumni— a sea of editors and staffers from eight decades of Law Review—and turned the floor over to Jane Wallison Stein, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, who was the editor-in-chief of Law Review during its 40th anniversary, at the height of the Watergate scandal.
Stein recalled Law Review’s “primitive” production methods--relics like typewriters, envelopes and stamps, and the absence of electronic communications. She recalled the hours of Shepardizing by pulling actual reporters off the shelves. Despite the logistical difficulties and the long hours, Stein recalled her time on Law Review as the highlight of her Law School years. “Our professors gave us an excellent grounding in the law,” Stein said. “But the law review process, the demanding hours, the commitment to perfection, not to mention the dialectic – for example the intense argument between the writer of a note, defending the precedential value of a cited case, and the editor trying to shoot it down – contributed enormously to my training as a lawyer.”
Today’s Law Review stands in stark contrast to the relatively provincial means with which Law Review used to function, explained Andrei Takhteyev ‘10, current editor in chief of Law Review, who supervises a staff of 85 students (almost double that of Stein’s). The magazine’s production is now virtually paperless, a complete product of technological wonder. But Takhteyev did mention that there was still one glaring similarity: “The office furniture is still the same,” he said, which drew hearty laughs from the crowd.
Toobin, who is no stranger to the demands of being on Law Review (he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review), spoke about his latest book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007), which he explained was inspired by The Brethren, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. He discussed the Rehnquist Court, and the up and coming vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Stephens’ retirement. He also shared some candid moments from The Nine’s reporting process.
One amusing story he shared concerned Justice Souter and Justice Breyer, who are often mistaken for one another. “When Justice Souter was driving to his house in New England, he stopped for a bite to eat along the way and was approached by a diner who said, ‘You’re Justice Breyer, right?’ Not wanting to embarrass the gentleman, Justice Souter said, ‘Yes, I am.” The diner asked, ‘What is the greatest honor of serving on the Court?’ After a moment, Justice Souter replied, ‘I guess I would have to say it is the privilege of being able to serve with Justice Souter’.”
Toobin also talked about his experience writing Too Close to Call: The 36-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election, and his many attempts to interview Al Gore for the book. Years later, when the two would meet on a different occasion, Toobin approached Gore to interview him for The Nine. Toobin recalled his conversation with the former Vice President: “I said, ‘I can’t get over it. I may be the biggest Bush v. Gore junkie.’ Vice President Gore replied, ‘You may be the second.’”
While Toobin was certainly the evening’s celebrity draw, BLS alumni were also very excited to return to the Law School, to reconnect with old classmates and teachers, and share memories of their time on Law Review.
“I remember Law Review as being a cohesive, interesting and talented group of students--and a LOT of hard work,” said Janet Ginzberg, Senior Staff Attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, who made the trip to Brooklyn for the Law Review celebration. “The event was beautifully done. Jeffrey Toobin was an excellent speaker, the food was great, and Feil Hall, which didn't exist when I was at BLS, is a wonderful space for events. I was impressed by how many professors and former students came to celebrate their time at BLS.”
View video of Toobin's speech.