ATLANTA — Seventy Yale Law School alumni from around the country gathered in Atlanta Jan. 3 over a traditional Southern meal for brief remarks by Law School Dean Anthony Kronman and a talk on the subject of “Representing Justice: From Renaissance Iconography to 21st Century Courthouses” by Law School professor Judith Resnik.
Approximately 60 of the attendees, who feasted on fried chicken, sweet potatoes, cornbread and Georgia peach cobbler at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, were law professors who came to Atlanta for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, while the other 10 were Yale Law School graduates living in the Atlanta area, Law School Associate Dean Toni Davis said in an e-mail. The event focused on legal scholarship and history.
After dinner had been served, Kronman welcomed participants with an introductory speech, which lauded the lifestyle of a law professor. Kronman said law professors are unique in the teaching profession because their students go on to do something completely different from what their professors do.
“Unlike teachers of English, philosophy and economics, whose students go on to lead lives just like themselves, we live in a sort of permanent disjunction with our students,” Kronman said in his address. “It’s a life of exquisite, satisfying, lovely, deep loneliness.”
Resnik lectured on several ways in which the idea of justice has been represented and interpreted over the course of history. She said modern representations of justice, such as the oft-seen blindfolded female figure wearing Grecian drapery and holding a scale, are often interpreted in a very different way today than they were in past centuries. Resnik said that this modern interpretation of justice is only one of many images, some with a darker meaning, that came from medieval times.
“The images that have come down to us are cheerfully even-handed depictions,” Resnik said.
Resnik said in past centuries, even such seemingly positive attributes as the blindfolded head of justice could be seen in a more negative light, representing the idea that justice is “blindfolded to the horror going on in her name” under authoritarian governments.
Resnik also spoke about more modern representations of justice, such as the modern courthouse. She said a number of trends, such as the the women’ rights movement and the growing acceptance of the idea that any citizen could hold the state accountable for his or her interests have led to a proliferation in the number of places of justice such as courthouses. But Resnik said these same trends have also led to a desire by the state to design courthouses in a way that makes them feel less comfortable for litigants, thus encouraging them to settle their disputes outside the increasingly burdened American legal system.
Roger Williams University law professor Niki Kuckes LAW ’85, who attended both the AALS conference and the Yale Law dinner, said she was drawn to Atlanta by both events.
“I just started teaching law this year, and I wanted to have a chance to see my classmates from Yale who are in law teaching, as well as my colleagues from other law schools,” Kuckes said in an e-mail.