Roger Jepsen, 1928-2020

Roger Jepsen, 1928-2020

One afternoon, in March 1970, a veteran Midwestern senator rose from his seat to defend a Supreme Court nominee accused of being second-rate. “Even if he were mediocre,” Sen. Roman Hruska told his colleagues, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?”

The senator’s observation was immediately regarded as an embarrassment, a dagger inadvertently plunged into the hapless nominee he sought to defend. It is also, a half-century later, just about the only thing anyone now remembers of Hruska. And yet, of course, there was a certain wisdom in what he said: “We can’t have all Brandeises and Frankfurters and Cardozos,” he declared, referring to three 20th-century justices of unmatched intellect. It’s nice to be governed, in our democratic republic, by the best and the brightest, but as the rule of the best and the brightest sometimes reveals, it’s also useful to be governed by

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