Justice Carol a. Corrigan

by

Justice Carol A. Corrigan

By Erik M. Silber

A Career Devoted to Making the Language of the Law Understandable and Accessible

CLR: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Justice Corrigan:

First, like many kids, there was a cowgirl and firefighter phase, but I then became a little more focused on what to actually do. You have to remember that I was growing up in the 1950’s and girls did not have quite as many options then as they do now, at least not most girls from my background. So my friends and I were looking at nursing, teaching, and secretarial positions. I was not much of a typist and I was prone to a little queasiness, so the plan was the classroom for me.

CLR: Who were your role models as a child and why?

Justice Corrigan: I would have to say my parents first. I was blessed with two truly wonderful parents. They had me a little later in life, when they were in their mid-30s, because my father served in World War II. He was injured in the Battle of the Bulge, and was hospitalized for a time after that. It was a small family, but a very close one. After my parents, my role models were my teachers. Many of them were in religious communities and had devoted their lives to teaching us, which was, and remains, remarkable.

CLR: Your mother was a librarian and your father worked in the newspaper business. How was the written word viewed in your family when you were growing up?

Justice Corrigan: The written word was very important – all language was really. We were a loquacious, humor-filled Irish family. There was a lot of laughter, word play and spirited discussion at the dinner table. Everybody read inces- santly, and we talked about what we were reading and about what I was learning in school.

CLR: You were raised in Stockton. What was your favorite part of growing up there?

Justice Corrigan: When I was growing up, Stockton had about 100,000 people and a small-town feel to it. I went to Catholic schools, so you tended to know the kids you went to school with from the first grade on. The teachers often had taught your parents or cousins. I remember feeling very happy and secure as a kid, which I think are two of the greatest gifts that you can give a child. I remember fishing with my dad and learning to play golf, and I remember my mom always talking about books and ideas. It was the kind of town where kids rode their bikes until the street lights came on and then you went home for dinner. That small town experience was very much a part of it. But we were also lucky enough to be close to the big city of San Francisco along with the beaches and the mountains.

CLR: You were the first person in your family to go to col- lege. How significant was that opportunity?

Justice Corrigan: It was a big deal. None of my grandpar- ents completed high school and my parents graduated from high school at the beginning of the Great Depression. Even though going right to work was necessary, they remained lifelong learners. My dad was in the newspaper business and my mom was a librarian in the days when you could get jobs like that without a college degree. But it was always expected that I would get one because that was the way up and out. None of us were quite sure exactly what that would entail or where it would lead, but we were all clear that it was going to happen.

CLR: You started off pursing a doctorate in clinical psychol- ogy, but wound up switching to the law. What led you to change your path?

Justice Corrigan: In 1970, when I was graduating, not a lot of girls were going off to law school, certainly not among the people I knew. I was interested in the study of psychol- ogy — and still am — so I thought that might be a good fit. When I got to graduate school, I discovered that the law students were much more intriguing than the psychology students. In my dormitory, there were several women who were in the law school and I began to think, “If these gals can do it, maybe I can too.” That lesson stayed with me and is much reflected on our social dialogue today. It is very important to be able to see people with whom you identify doing something to which you aspire. It lets you say to yourself “maybe I should give it a shot.”

CLR: You got both your undergraduate and law degrees in the Bay Area, Holy Names for undergraduate and Hastings for law school. What drew you to the Bay Area?

Justice Corrigan: I went to graduate school in St. Louis, and it was an interesting experience for a California girl to go off to the Midwest. I very much enjoyed it. But California was home and I was pretty sure I wanted to come back and stay in the Bay Area. It made sense to start my undergraduate and law careers there.

CLR: You have stayed in the Bay Area after graduation from law school. What has kept you in the Bay Area?

Justice Corrigan: The short answer is I got a job in the Bay Area and I really like it here.

CLR: Your first job as an attorney was as an assistant district attorney in Alameda. How did serving as a prosecutor shape your career as an attorney, judge, and justice? And are you surprised that you have been joined on the Supreme Court recently by another Justice (Justice Jenkins) who also got his start in that office?

Justice Corrigan: I was lucky to get a job in one of the best district attorney’s offices in the country. Earl Warren had been the District Attorney in Alameda County, as had D. Lowell Jensen, who went on to have a distinguished career in the Justice Department and as a federal judge. Lowell was gracious, and brave enough to hire me and mentor me along with many others. I made lifelong friends at the district attorney’s office. Learning to be a trial lawyer, especially in that rough and tumble competitive environment, is a little bit like going to bootcamp together. You really bond. We were all learning from one another all at the same time. A lot of exceptional people got their start in that office. I am not at all surprised that Justice Jenkins has joined our group on the Supreme Court. I am much more surprised to find myself here.

CLR: What were the most important things that you learned as an attorney that shaped your career on the bench?

Justice Corrigan: The importance of integrity; the power of the law in people’s lives and in the life of the broader society; and how crucial it is to remember that the law is always, at its core, a human enterprise. I loved being a trial lawyer. I have often said that it was the best job I ever had, including the job I have now. That’s due in part to the quality and ethics of the office where I learned my craft. That helped me to get a feel for the courtroom in terms of how things can, and should, play out there.

CLR: You have ultimately served on the Municipal Court, Superior Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court. What did you enjoy most about each of those varied positions?

Justice Corrigan: When you say it that way, it makes me sound like I can’t keep a job! Being in the trial court just felt like home. I knew most of the lawyers from practicing either with them or as friendly adversaries. I knew many of the others from bar events. I was — and remain — fascinated by the flow of the trial process, which is one of the reasons why I still teach trial practice. A transition to the courts of review was great because I love the process of writing about the law. Approaching an appeal is a little bit like solving a puzzle. You really have to understand what happened; you have to master the area of the law involved; you have to figure out what was the right and fair answer; and then you have to explain it all. What could be a better job than that? It is an amazing privilege to help shape and clarify the law and keep it true to serving the goals of justice.

CLR: How did your time as a trial judge and appellate justice impact your work as a Supreme Court Justice?

Justice Corrigan: I certainly did not come from generations of lawyers, so getting to see the way things unfold in the courtroom was a very helpful lens through which to view the contents of a cold record. It is helpful to be able to read between the lines and consider the tactical and practical influences that bear on the way a trial progresses; to know how regular people react under pressure, and to understand how jurors process information. Most people do not wake up in the morning and say, "Wow, today I get to go to court." Most people who find themselves in a courtroom are not all that happy to be there. It is intimidating, confusing, and surreal. Often there is a great deal on the line. So it’s helpful to have a feel for all that when you are looking at that cold record and trying to understand how the case unfolded in real time.

CLR: What is the day in the life of a Supreme Court Justice like? How does it compare with your day as a trial judge or Court of Appeal Justice?

Justice Corrigan: A day for the average trial judge is often like being a ringmaster at a three-ring circus. There are a lot of things happening all at once. You are managing people under stress, explaining things to jurors, and creating an environment in which the truth can be told and be tested. You are dealing with the competing goals and egos of lawyers. You are making a lot of decisions, often very quickly, because that’s what the process demands. So that experience is quite a ride. A day on the court of review is much calmer, quieter, and more predictable. You have time to look at questions in more depth, to deconstruct the arguments, and to be more methodical about solving that appellate puzzle. You do it in consultation with your staff and colleagues in a way that just is not possible on the trial court. They are both wonderful positions, but they’re very different.

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CLR: You have described your job as a Court of Appeal Justice as looking backwards and your job as a Supreme Court justice as looking forward. Can you please explain what you mean by that?

Justice Corrigan: The Court of Appeal is a court of error correction and everyone has a right to an appeal. When you are dealing with that appeal, you are looking backwards at what happened, and whether it was correct. If it was wrong, you consider whether that error made a difference. You write an opinion that explains all that to the litigants and then you move onto the next case. We grant discretionary review at the Supreme Court because we are looking forward. We are looking to see how the law needs to be shaped or clarified for all those cases that come next. We take a case to resolve conflicts among the Courts of Appeal or to clarify changes in the law resulting from new legislation. Our goal is generally to provide clarity and guidance to the lawyers and judges who have to encounter the next case. It really is a difference between looking back in the Court of Appeal and trying to fix something, if it needs fixing, or looking forward in the Supreme Court to help shape the future with clarity.

CLR: What have you loved most about serving as California Supreme Court Justice (and is there anything that you have loved less)?

Justice Corrigan: It has been an amazing privilege to serve on the Court of course, certainly one that nobody would have predicted for little Carol Corrigan from Stockton. When my name was mentioned as a candidate for the Supreme Court, one of my friends called and said, "Wow, this is great." And I said, "Oh, come on, pigs will fly before I get picked for this job." So after I was confirmed, she gave me a little winged pig that sits on my desk. It reminds me of many things, including the importance of being humble, grateful, and occasionally amazed.

CLR: What United States or California Supreme Court Justice have you most admired or modeled your career after and why?

Justice Corrigan: There have been many models and mentors. Each of my colleagues certainly. For the U.S. Supreme Court, I would say Justice O’Connor has been inspirational. She was a true trailblazer. She never forgot where she came from, and she approached the law with humanity, graciousness, and practicality. Her ability to build consensus, to find middle ground, to remain true to the human side of the law, are all important attributes to be remembered and emulated.

CLR: You are currently the most senior Justice on the California Supreme Court, having served since 2006. How has the Court changed over your tenure?

Justice Corrigan: I have no idea how that happened. It seems like just last week I was the new kid on the Court. But the justices who welcomed me when I joined the Court —and all the remarkable, talented, dedicated people who have joined us since — have been amazing colleagues. I think the Court in many ways has remained true to its roots. We really do strive for consensus whenever that is possible. I think we have a shared belief that, when we can provide more clarity and greater guidance, we should. We work hard, not only to get it right, but to explain our opinions in ways that busy judges and lawyers can apply and all Californians can have confidence in. I think it’s important to remember that we may write this big opinion, but then people have to deal with it. Some busy judge is going to be hit with it in the middle of a trial with jurors sitting in the box. So they take a 15 minute recess, during which time they have to read our opinion, digest it, and figure out how to implement it. We should be conscious of trying to write our opinions so they can be readily absorbed. That’s not always possible, but it’s a pretty good aspiration.

CLR: Justice Jenkins replaced Justice Chin on the Court last December. What impact does each new justice have on the Court?

Justice Corrigan: Justice Jenkins is just a delight. He is a dear friend and we have served as Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court Judges together. He went on to much more exciting things than I, but he, Justice Ming Chin, and I all got our start in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Each justice brings their own life and professional experience to the Court. Those varied experiences enrich the work we do, the way we approach the law, and hopefully the tapestry of the law that we are working hard to weave. We take everything that is going on in this magnificent society around us, as well as all of our lived experience, and it all becomes part of that fabric of the law.

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CLR: How has the pandemic impacted the Supreme Court and the judiciary more broadly?

Justice Corrigan: Well, in our Court, we have been more fortunate than many because we have jobs that lend themselves to working remotely. It has been much more of a struggle in the trial courts: deciding whether to stay open, what to close, and how to deal with delay occasioned by court closures. Just keeping that business of justice on track is a challenge. But all the extra challenges of safety and logistics have been tough. The Chief Justice and the presiding judges have borne the brunt of the labor and it has been amazing to watch. But, speaking for me, I am sitting in my little office at home reading and writing all day. For me, that’s a joy.

CLR: How does everyone working remotely most of the time impact the collegiality of the Supreme Court, at least over the last year?

Justice Corrigan: We had a solid base to build on because we all knew one another well. So that has been pretty seamless. We still have our conference every Wednesday, and are regularly in touch by email and phone. That’s not so different from the way it would happen when we were all in the same building. The work flow and our ability to stay connected is progressing fairly well. Of course we are helped immeasurably by our wonderful staff.

CLR: How have you found virtual argument during the pandemic?

Justice Corrigan: It has been surprisingly good. I think many lawyers were a little trepidatious at first, but they have risen well to the occasion. The time lag and the occasional technological blip take a little of the spontaneity out of the experience, but on the whole, people have been wonderful about making it work.

CLR: You worked on a commission on the future of California’s courts. What are the most important changes that you see happening to California’s courts over the next decade? Has the pandemic speed up some of those changes?

Justice Corrigan: When the Chief Justice first established the commission we were running courtrooms in much the same way as they had been run for at least a century. We had replaced the quill-pen-wielding court reporter, but the courtrooms still looked and operated like what you might see in a movie like "Inherit the Wind," except for the suspenders and spittoons. I think some of the biggest changes will revolve around the use of technology. We can make the system more efficient, more accessible, and less burdensome on people’s time in many ways. There is no reason why you should have to take a day off work to resolve a traffic ticket. Technology can help to make the system more responsive and understandable to those whose first language is not English or who are unfamiliar with our approach to doing of justice.

And, of course, the pandemic has accelerated everything. Change is hard and often people resist it because they cannot quite envision how it is going to look, or operate. But the pandemic has forced us to envision it, to live with it, to experiment and adapt to it. Any time there is a big disruptive event or an inflection point in history, all kinds of things happen. In the 1960’s, we went to the moon. Along the way we invented Tang and transistors. After the bubonic plague came the Renaissance. We are making those kinds of big leaps as we live through this moment. We are not going to really know what it looks like until we are on the other side of it, but it will undoubtedly look different.

At its best in a democracy, the law is a reflection of the values, the concerns and the needs of the people it serves. California is a big, wonderfully diverse, always interesting, cutting-edge place. The law gives us all a basis for shared community values. It is a mirror that can reflect our challenges and shortcomings. It is an avenue for change and evolution. These things are always necessary and certainly part of our current experience. The law can also be a telescope that helps us look to the future and consider how we want to shape it. We embrace and are informed by a great many experiences and ideas. The law gives us an arena to draw on the very best of all those things. We continue to figure out ways to make the law work better for everyone, to be open to different points of view, to consider them as opportunities to be embraced and built on. The law gives us space to do all those things. If we are honest enough, and brave enough, and kind enough, we can keep working in it to carry ourselves forward.

CLR: What challenges do the many different languages spoken in California present for access to justice?

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Justice Corrigan: There are over 80 languages spoken in California and that reality actually reflects another. Many of our neighbors come from other cultures with different approaches to the doing of justice, to the role of government in people’s lives, and to the resolution of conflict. So the ability to meet their needs remotely with a translator or an advisor who may not be in the same room or in the same town, but who can speak their language and explain the system to them would be a great leap forward. All that we have been doing and getting used to during the pandemic will help move that process along.

CLR: You have always been active in your community. From your perspective, is it important for lawyers and judges to be civically engaged or involved in their community? What types of community or civic volunteer work have been most meaningful to you over your career?

Justice Corrigan: I think it is very important. As judges and lawyers, we have a different kind of insight into how our community and our social systems work. We have so many skills that we have been lucky enough to acquire. We have an obligation to give back. As a lawyer you can nurture a non-profit; you can help a small business get started; you can help a lonely child; you can make your community fairer and safer; you can save the planet; you can save a life. By virtue of our education and experience, we are almost uniquely positioned to do those things. I have worked with amazing people over the years in education, health care and job training.

One of the most meaningful experiences for me has been service on the board of an entity called Saint Vincent’s Day Home. It is a child and family center in West Oakland that has been assisting needy families and their children for over 100 years. Every day, about 200 children between the ages of two and seven make their way through the big front door of a restored Victorian home. It’s the gateway to multiple classrooms, two big yards, a computer lab, library and more. There the children are nurtured, educated, given healthy meals and various kinds of health screening. Their families get help with job training, parenting and language skills, immigration issues, and housing. At any given time there are 10 to 12 languages spoken and at least one person on site who can speak to any parent or child in the language they recognize most comfortably. The Day Home partners with each family, not to supplant the family, but to support them to ensure that their young children are well-cared for while their parents are out working hard to build a better future. If you are lucky enough to be associated with people doing that kind of wonderful work, you are lucky indeed, as I have been.

CLR: When you were a Court of Appeal Justice, you served on the Judicial Council and the Judicial Council’s Task Force on Jury Instructions. How important was it to simplify jury instructions?

Justice Corrigan: The law lives in its language. You can’t weigh it, or taste it, or examine it under a microscope. All we know about the law is what we say about in words. It’s pretty important to use those words with precision but, as important, to use words that people can understand. Jurors often come to a courtroom with no practical experience about the law or how a trial works. The judge tells them: "Now listen ladies and gentlemen, don’t worry. You’re going to sit as jurors, you’re going to listen to all the evidence, and when it’s all over, I’m going to explain the law to you. Then you will take the law as I give it to you and apply it to decide this case." Well, that’s terrific, but what happens when the jurors cannot understand the instructions they are given? A wise man once said that he who uses words unknown to his audience might just as well bark. There was a lot of barking in those old instructions. They used stilted language; they could be disorganized; and they were cumbersome. They often quoted verbatim from statutes or old cases. That was understandable because it was safe. If the judge used the very language of the statute or controlling case, he or she could not be accused of misstating the law. And those old instructions had been repeatedly tested on appeal. So our task was twofold: To explain the law in a way that was more understandable, and to make sure that we continued to explain it accurately. In making it simpler, we certainly didn’t want to lose a nuance from more complicated language.

One example is a short one: Jurors have to evaluate credibility. They may hear from a witness who doesn’t recall something, or may not recall it accurately. The old instruction told them: "Innocent misrecollection is not uncommon." Well, that’s true, but it’s somewhat cumbersome and why say it in the negative? It’s also important to remember that that little sentence is just one tiny piece of information that hits the jury box like a wave of language about complicated and unfamiliar ideas. Jurors do not have a chance to say, "Wait a minute, judge. Let me just think about that for a second to make sure I understand what you’re saying." Instead of saying, "innocent misrecollection is not uncommon," isn’t it much more straightforward to say "sometimes people honestly forget things?" That gets absorbed pretty easily. That was the nature of the challenge, to figure out how we could explain very complicated concepts accurately, but in ways that could be easily absorbed and applied. It was a big job, but it was very rewarding. We had a great team of judges and lawyers who worked on it for almost a decade. That work is still being done by a standing committee of the Judicial Council, so we must have done a little something right.

CLR: Why has teaching been important and/or helpful to you?

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Justice Corrigan: I have spent a lot of my life teaching in various arenas: college, law schools, attorney, and judicial education programs. I have also found that, if you really want to learn something, one terrific way to do that is to try teaching it to somebody else. It has been an enriching adjunct to my life as a lawyer and judge. You meet magnificent people. Justice Mark Simons and I have taught evidence at the California Judicial College for almost 40 years. As a result, we have been able to meet virtually every new judge in California over the course of all that time.

CLR: What is the California Judicial College, what does it do, and what was your role there teaching evidence?

Justice Corrigan: People who get appointed to the bench have a great swath of lived experience, legal and otherwise. But often the very first assignment you get as a judge is something that you have never encountered as a lawyer. Right from the starting blocks, you need to know a whole lot about the ethics of being a judge, about areas of the law that you might not have been exposed to in your own practice, and all kinds of other information. The first thing that happens in a new judge’s career is that they go to a week long initiation program. Then, sometime during their first year to 18 months on the bench, they go to a two-week judicial college. There are courses on courtroom management, ethics, various areas of practice and specialization; everything from juvenile to probate. That’s a lot to master. One segment focuses on evidence: how it works, how to analyze questions, how to come up with the right ruling, and what kind of record to make. That last part, of course, is very important to all of us who sit on the courts of review. It’s also important to trial judges who want to have their rulings upheld. We spend a whole day at the college just talking about evidence.

CLR: How do you approach oral argument as a Supreme Court Justice? What are the most important items that you review in preparation for the argument, what role do your research attorneys play in preparing you for argument?

Justice Corrigan: In preparation for argument, I go back and reread everything. That’s necessary right before an argument because often we will have been working on a case as a group for over a year. When you get a case you read the briefs and the record, then get involved in the drafting process. You have to bring it all back before argument (just like the lawyers who are arguing before us with a case that they have lived with for years). You have to get all tuned up right before an argument happens. I think that everybody has their own approach to doing it. I like to have as much of it available in "random access memory" as possible. I obviously talk to my staff. I usually reach out and say, "Okay, here’s the way I’m approaching it. While I was doing it, I came up with this question. Do you have any ideas on that?" I really enjoy oral argument, and always look forward to it. The lawyers seldom disappoint.

CLR: What advice do you have for seeking review in the Supreme Court or briefing and arguing the Court?

Justice Corrigan: It’s a fairly narrow question we look at when deciding to grant review. Do we need to take this case? Of all the petitions that we get every year, is this one of the two percent that we really need to take? So that’s where the review petition should focus. Writing a petition for review and saying, "the trial judge or the Court of Appeal got it wrong and you should parachute in here and save us" is probably not going to be very successful. We do not generally consider ourselves a court of error correction. The Courts of Appeal do a wonderful job at that. You want to structure your petition to show why we need to get involved in this moment, whether there is a lack of clarity in the law, or there is a conflict among the Courts of Appeal, or whether the way the law has been explained before is just not working out very well in real life. If you focus on what you are trying to do, which is get us to take your case, your chances greatly improve.

CLR: Is there a difference between a well written brief in the Supreme Court as opposed to such a brief in the Court of Appeal?

Justice Corrigan: Some things are the same and some are different. In the Court of Appeal, you are often raising a number of issues and you might strike gold on any one of them. If you get to our Court, we’ve usually limited review to one or two issues. So the focus of your briefing is going to be different. At both levels it is important to be mindful that you are asking the court to write a rule. That rule should be direct and workable. So say: "The duty is breached when …." "Relief is available if …." The statutory language means …." "This statement is hearsay because…" "This exception requires …." The clearer you can be about how you suggest we write that rule, the more helpful you are. It is always interesting to me when I, or one of my colleagues, asks at argument, "what is the rule that you’d like us to write?" Not infrequently the lawyers look back at us with an expression on their face that conveys: "Wow! What an interesting question. I never really thought about that before." You should ask yourself that question before you come to argue and be ready to give give us the answer.

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CLR: What qualities make a brief or oral argument most effective?

Justice Corrigan: Ted Sorensen, a scholar in his own right, and an advisor and speech writer to President Kennedy, said that the four components for a good speech are clarity, charity, levity, and brevity. That’s good advice for anybody who is writing a brief or getting ready to make an oral argument. It is important to be clear; to be honest about what really happened, not just to cherry pick the facts; to focus on the big picture and, if you are arguing before the Supreme Court, to be clear about this difference between looking backward for error correction and looking forward to clarify a more narrow issue.

The three foundations of classical rhetoric are ethos, logos, and pathos. They are timeless and a good advocate honors them. You must capture the ethos, convincing the listener you are reliable and trustworthy. That means you get the facts right. You are not disagreeable or attack people unnecessarily. And you do not write a brief that shouts. A brief that shouts is a brief that has lots of underlining or bold face in it. It’s as if the writer is saying: "Just in case you were are not smart enough to figure this out, let me put it in big print."

I think the very best lawyers do not lose sight of the fact that, by the time they come to argue their case, we have read everything, often several times. It is important to help orient the Court, but you do not have to go back and repeat everything that we have already absorbed. What you should come prepared to do in a good oral argument is to engage the court in conversation. You should be very clear about what points you really need to win on and what you may need to give way on. You should be ready to articulate the rule you want us to write. Clearly explain the logic of your position and how it results in a fair and workable outcome.

Trouble shoot your case. Identify what your strongest and weakest points are. Figure out how your opponent is going to attack your weaknesses, and how you will reply. Then do the same analysis for your opponent’s case. If you keep all those balls in the air at the same time, you will be well prepared and feel more confident.

CLR: What is your view on attorneys using block quotes versus explaining what happened in a decision? Some attorneys want to rely on the words that the Court itself used and sometimes have a lot of block quotes instead of more detailed explanation of what was said and why it is important. Some do the opposite.

Justice Corrigan: If you use a block quote that dovetails with your theory of the case, that’s useful. But two cautions. First, pick out the language that really works for you. Sometimes there’s a golden sentence hiding in a big glut of words. Leave out the glut and focus on the gold. Second, work hard at synthesizing the law. Use the language of the prior cases when it really works for you. But, so long as you do not change the meaning of the words, do not feel as though you have to slavishly repeat every archaic syllable. A quote can set the table, but you have to make a pivot to your case. The advocate is really a bridge between the established law and its application to the case at hand. You do not just want to throw the law out there in a big quote and "Ta Dah," hope that we see it the same way you do. You need to take it and mold it and explain the transition to your particular case.

CLR: When your legal career has concluded, how do you want the public to remember you and your work?

Justice Corrigan: I think it is always a fool’s errand to try to write your own legacy. That’s much better left to others. But I hope I’m viewed as someone who worked hard to get both a right and a fair result under the law. I think, as judges, we are servants of the law, not its masters. We hold it in trust, not in thrall. The law doesn’t belong to us as members of some judicial cognoscenti. Instead it belongs to all of us who live under its guidance and protection. That’s the approach I’ve always tried to take.

My team and I work hard to unpack the logic of the opinion. We try to help the reader understand what we are saying about the law in that medium of language — the only place where the law lives. Then we try to explain it succinctly and clearly. If people think of me as having accomplished that, I will be very happy.

CLR: You have a passion for Notre Dame football and golf. Is there a Notre Dame football player or a golfer that has impressed you or you have always wanted to meet?

Justice Corrigan: I was lucky enough once to meet coach Lou Holtz and to get his autograph on a hat, which I was able to give to my father. You would have thought that I gave him a basket full of diamonds, he was so thrilled. That was an amazing opportunity.

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As to golfers, I have always been impressed with Lorena Ochoa, not only because of her golfing skill, but also because of her graciousness. She always made time to go and chat with all the people who work to make a golf course and a golf tournament work: the groundskeepers, the crew, the service people. During the Depression, my grandfather, who was a carpenter by trade, took a job as a groundskeeper because there just was not a lot of carpentry work to be had. It always impressed me that Lorena would take care to honor all those folks for their hard, and often unseen, work.

Having a chance to meet Condoleezza Rice would actually cover both Notre Dame and golf. She has a degree from the University and is a serious student of football. She is one of the most accomplished people of her generation as a scholar and public servant, an amazing pianist and educator, and a nearly scratch golfer. She is somebody I would very much like to meet someday.

CLR: Are there legal movies or books that you have particularly liked or were meaningful to you?

Justice Corrigan: First, and foremost, I would say "A Man for all Seasons." It was a great movie, but it is an even better play to read. When you read it you see that each character in Bolt’s play voices a different philosophy of law, a different approach to law. It’s captivating to see the way he draws all those threads together and the way he makes the written word sing. It’s one of those tour de force pieces of art, very similar to the way Miranda approached "Hamilton." I remember in high school reading the "Implosion Conspiracy" by Louis Nizer, about the trial of the Rosenbergs for espionage in the 1950’s. He emphasized the perspective of the trial lawyers who were representing these clients in a very controversial, emotionally charged and high publicity case. That was an interesting exposure to the craft of trail lawyering, as well as the good and bad of judging. In law school, I read "The Final Verdict" by a well-known journalist at the time, Adela Rogers St. Johns. Her father Earl Rogers was a a legendary trial lawyer in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century and she grew up watching him try cases. It was a fascinating read. At the moment, I am reading "Final Trial" by Scott Turow. He has such a masterful way of writing about the nuances of the human drama that is a jury trial. I am always on the lookout for a good story about the courtroom.

CLR: What else is important to know about you as a person that would not make it into your judicial biography?

Justice Corrigan: The critical importance of humor in life: Learning how to use it and to be kind with it, learning how it can reduce conflict and soothe challenging situations. If you can approach any circumstance you find yourself in with a little humor, it almost always helps. That is not usually something that finds its way into a judicial biography, but it is important.

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