Article Title

Covered Bridges


Aviam Soifer


Very grateful as I am to have been invited to New Haven to reconsider Nomos and Narrative after twenty years, I am again struck by Bob Cover's stunning intellectual vigor and originality, his broad curiosity, and his irrepressible sense of humor. I particularly want to underscore his example of an enduring commitment to context, to striving for more justice in the here and now. Most significantly, I believe it worth reconsidering the very bridges that Cover identified between nomos and narrative. He offered only cryptic distinctions (yet distinctions with a difference) to separate but also to connect "is" and "ought"; the violent law of the state and the new norms of committed groups that challenge state law; rules and stories.

Cover had an intimate view of the power and the limitations of law. He literally and painfully put his body on the line as an activist for civil rights and as an opponent of the Vietnam War. His great book, Justice Accused, confronted judicial complicity and illuminated profound failures of the legal imagination. Most of Cover's work, in fact, revolved around the sources that create, but might also confine law. He insistently probed whether and when moral judgment can scrutinize law from beyond law's own borders.