What Makes a Judge Great: To A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., 142 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 513 (1993)
What makes a judge great? Intelligence, of course, and a love of learning and scholarship. Without these a judge cannot go deeply or widely enough. It is a measure of Leon Higginbotham's greatness that one takes these qualities, which he demonstrates again and again so powerfully and so easily in his opinions and in his scholarly articles, almost for granted. Of course, one says of his wit and learning, as if these characteristics were common or widely shared in the judiciary.
But to be great a judge needs much, much more. And when that more shines as brightly as it does in Leon Higginbotham even intelligence and scholarship, however great, dim in comparison. Oh yes, a judge also needs to be articulate in writing and in speech. And anyone who has read what Leon has written or who has heard him speak knows that there is no person in public life today more brilliantly articulate than he. (Think for example of his open letter to Justice Clarence Thomas, or of his unforgettable talk at the Yale Law School when his portrait was presented to that place he has so loved, and so honored by his love.)
Date of Authorship for this Version
Calabresi, Guido, "What Makes a Judge Great: To A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr." (1993). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 2007.