LIONEL PODCAST: A Discussion With the Consummate Jurist Sol Wachtler

A distinguished career in the law. Sol Wachtler is the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Touro Law Center. I’ve had the privilege and honor of addressing his constitutional law class and saw firsthand the excitement he has for explicating and limning the intricacies of those matters juridical and the referenced.

A trusted public and judicial servant. He began his government career in 1963, when he was elected supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead. He was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court in 1968 and elected to the New York State Court of Appeals in 1972. In 1985, he was appointed Chief Judge of the State of New York and the Court of Appeals, positions in which he served until 1993. He was also the founder and first chair of New York’s State Federal Judicial Council as well as the National State Federal Judicial Council. And I’m proud to call him my friend. And I mean that.

He’s what you would expect a judge to be. Television has given us the clown and oaf as TV judge, Wapner notwithstanding. (And he’s alive at 95!) Judge Judy is a harridan of the first order, an embarrassment. To think people actually think (now there’s a statement) that she’s the norm. That scolding, fire-breathing, rude and discourteous judges exist. Well, a few do, to be honest. Anyhoo, Judge Wachtler is the crème de la crème. The anti-Judy. Bespoke and urbane, eloquent and stentorian. He’s central casting for the learned judge. Well-spoken, measured, possessed with the decorum and affect and attitude of the quintessential jurist.

Précis. In the years I’ve know him, I’ve cherished the hours that we’ve chatted anent the law and jurisprudence. In this full-bodied conversation, Judge Wachtler and I discuss inter alia:

  • The gubernatorial and political legacy of New York Governor Mario Cuomo, whom Judge Wachtler knew intimately and remembers fondly.
  • The “unique” logic and juridical philosophy of New York City Mayor Ed Koch who saw his gubernatorial chances vanish afer referring ti upstate New Yorkers as chuffs, churls and boors. In effect.
  • The fraud that is SCOTUS denizen Antonin Scalia and the imaginary machinations of originalism that provide for a tissue thin synthetic legal philosophy that justifies any result and decision as a product of a post hoc rationalization.
  • The historical antecedents to torture and the rather “novel” excuses and bases attempting to justify such.
  • The inexplicable inability to address the issues of mental health in our criminal justice system.
  • The ofttimes embarrassing realities of legal history. Can you say “Dred Scott”?
  • Juridical historicity and the role of relativistic perspective in deciding cases.
  • The challenges that law and jurisprudence will face when dealing with advances in technology and the like.
  • Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), and knowing it when you see it à la Potter Stewart.
  • The mind-boggling impunity that Reverend Al Sharpton seems to enjoy and how his words have meaning, had meaning and seem to be forgotten.
  • The future (good and bad) of American judicature.

Let me be very clear. I love Sol Wachtler and cherish his friendship.

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