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Letter from Ronald Sokol to Daniel Meador, Thursday, September 14, 1989

Ronald P. Sokol
B .P . 3
13540 Puyricard

Prof. Daniel J. Meador
University of Virginia
School of law
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
USA

14 September 1989

Dear Dan,

Mea culpa, mea culpa! Yours of the 5th came yesterday, and made
me realize that I had not even acknowledged your article on “God,
Law, and Sir Edward Coke in the Late 20th Century” and the ABA
Report on the federal appellate courts. I read both upon receipt
with enjoyment and interest. I personally found the ABA Report of
more interest than Coke, but I passed your speech to my partner,
Doug Woodworth, who was enamored by it.

As best I can recall, the reason I did not acknowledge your June
21st letter which contained the Report and speech was that I
was expecting to see you, or at least talk to you by phone,
within a month or so as we left for Lake Lure on July 14th and
your letter probably only reached me at the end of June.

The real question is what happened thereafter. As I ponder upon
this question, I am uncertain of the answer. For one thing your
Tuscaloosan neighbors did not wholly mislead you. While Lake Lure
might not be the finest place on earth, it is an exceptionally
pleasant one. We were at a spot called the Chalet Club which
offered everything we wanted for our children and us and was
owned and managed simultaneously by 3-generations running from
ages 75 down to 13, and all of whom were about as fine a people
as one could hope to meet.

They made our stay a great joy, and this allowed me to devote
myself daily to reading 30 pages of abstracts of the case law of
the European Court of Human Rights so that by the end of our stay
I had read it all. I also felt obliged to read Thomas Wolfe’s
Look Homeward Angel because of its long shadow on the map of
American literature and Lake Lure’s proximity to Wolfe’s home. It
is a thick book that cannot be picked up with one hand, except
by a professional basketball player, but I did not suffer going
through it and wrapped it up ready to try its sequel Of Time and
the River [title underlined].

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Then my mother and one of my nieces showed up for 10 days with
hopes of being entertained which of course we could not
disappoint. My children bade me descend to the waterfront on a
daily basis to inspect and certify their progress and proficiency
in the art of water skiing. My wife summoned me nearly daily to
the tennis court. Of course we had to visit the nearby Cherokee
Indian Reservation and museum, to see various local sights, such
as Thomas Wolfe’s house, Vanderbilt’s mansion, Sandburg’s place,
and others.

I also spent time reflecting upon whether I wished to return to
teaching, as I had been offered a job beginning in September 1990
at a new French international law school to be opened in Eastern
France at that time. I was given virtually a carte blanche offer
to teach either part-time or full-time and whatever subject I
wanted. This offer flattered my ego and sorely tempted me, so
that I devoted a portion of each day to dwelling upon the
pleasures of academic life and debating with myself whether I
should accept this offer. I concluded that if I did, my subject
would be a seminar on the legal profession using a kind of
comparative law approach.

I had also discovered this year on a peaceful Spring day much
like any other that I was 50 years old. While I had felt much
older when I was 18, there were possibly implications of this
landmark age that I should be reflecting about, and so I
proceeded conscientiously to do so during the summer days at Lake
Lure, but I have no startling conclusions to report.

Engaged in such pursuits the days tranquilly passed by, and
before I realized what had happened, it was August 14th, and we
were driving to the Raleigh airport to catch our plane back to
France. It was only 4 or 5 years ago that I started taking these
French-style one-month vacations, and now I am already finding
that they are too short. The French discovered this long ago, but
have done nothing about it. The Swedes have been more
enterprising and have increased their vacations to 5 or 6 weeks.
While my summer musing left me thinking that I might well accept
the offer to teach, upon my return I discovered myself writing a
letter rejecting the offer.

While at the Chalet Club I met a U.S. attorney from Greenville,
S.C. and I asked him if he knew Judge Haynesworth. His office
turned out to be across the hall from the judge’s, so I gave him
a letter to take back with him and deliver. A few days later I
received a lovely reply from Haynesworth who seemed happy to have
heard from me. Apparently his health has deteriorated some. I
calculate he must be in his early 80’s.

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15 September 1989

To illustrate how confining law practice can be I discovered
early in July of this year that LSU has been running a summer law
program here in Aix-en-Provence at the Law Faculty for the past
five years and has been bringing over Supreme Court justices.
This year Rehnquist was here for two weeks. Unfortunately he
arrived on July 11th, and we were leaving on the 14th.
Nonetheless I went into to Aix for two days to listen to him speak
to law students. I also read his 1987 book on the Supreme Court
in preparation for hearing him. I found both the book and
Rehquist [sic] a disappointment. Both the book and the man, I thought,
revealed a most mediocre mind and nothing redeeming on the human
side. Apparently LSU has brought both Blackmun and Brennan to Aix
in past years, but I was ignorant of these visits.

I also met Lloyd Weinreb of Harvard and Michael Riesmann of Yale,
who were teaching at the LSU program. We invited them and the two
LSU professors, Blakesley and Levasseur, and wives for a
cocktail one evening and so got to know them a bit better.
Weinreb was off to Madrid where HLS was running its summer
program and Riesmann to South Africa to lecture on civil rights,
if his visa came through, and he had been told that it would.

I told Weinreb that I had been using his book on constitutional
cases in criminal procedure (I forget the exact title) for many
years, but when he learned the antiquity of my edition, he
promised to send me a new volume which he promptly did. I
reciprocated by sending him Justice After Darwin as he had
mentioned that he taught a jurisprudence course. I figured this
might be a good occasion to infiltrate the book into the citadel.

I have also asked Michie to send it to Thomas Eisele at Tennessee
Law School who seems to have been similarly influenced by
Wittgenstein and has taken an approach that resembles mine. (“The
Activity of Being a Lawyer: The Imaginative Pursuit of
Implications and Possibilities,” 54 Tenn. L. Rev. 345 (1987). In
brief, I have been making an effort to stir up some interest in
Justice After Darwin. I know of no reviews of it, and I suspect
that outside of Virginia it is unknown. Because it was published
when I was living in France, I was unable to give any impetus to
it, and I think it has suffered because of that. This seems to me
a shame as I think it has something to say.

I apologize for not phoning you, but we shall be back again, I
shall try to do better on the next trip. It is always a great
pleasure to get your letters.

As ever

[handwritten signature]

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