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A notable part of the ritual of preparing and filing a Supreme Court brief is no more. The Wilson-Epes Printing Co., the top-of-the-line firm that prints briefs for many of Washington, D.C.’s leading law firms, announced recently that, after nearly six decades, it was ending the hot-metal printing process that had become a signature of its products. Company President Robert Dorsey says his was the last of the hot-metal legal brief printers in Washington, if not in the nation, before it finally went digital last month. The change means that Wilson-Epes will produce briefs faster and cheaper with a laser-type printing process, but certainly with less style. Labor and equipment costs were factors in the company’s decision to phase out the tradition, says Dorsey. But as he offered a glimpse of his aging Heidelberg printer and his decades-old linotype machines-all dusty and silent now — Dorsey also attributed the change to the need-it-now demands of today’s customers. “They come in at the 13th hour and they need it by 8 a.m. the next day,” says Dorsey, who took over the company seven years ago. The computer age has led clients to expect that if they come in with their brief on a disk, it can be printed instantly, without mistakes. “They don’t want to proofread,” Dorsey says. “They want to hit the spell-check button and be done with it.” That could never work with hot-metal printing, which required not only typing briefs anew — and repeated proofreading — but also a sophisticated manual rearranging of type to accommodate text and footnotes on a given page. “With hot metal, if we pushed it, we could do a brief in three weeks,” says Dorsey. “Now we can do it in three days.” With a $1.2 million investment in the most high-tech printing system on the market, Wilson-Epes will be able to stay competitive and meet customer needs, Dorsey says. But Dorsey knows an era has passed. No longer will linotype operators work through the night to cast words into lines made of molten lead. No longer will the briefs be printed on a Heidelberg press that left the printed page with a texture that lent importance to any brief or appendix, no matter how unimportant or verbose. And no longer will lawyers — young associates or mighty partners — have to come down to the unremarkable printing shop near D.C.’s Chinatown to proofread their briefs for hours before they are due. Proofreading is still important, but computers make it a much quicker process. “It breaks my heart,” said John Roberts, a veteran Supreme Court advocate at Washington, D.C.’s Hogan & Hartson. “The ritual of going down there at the crack of dawn — it was a signature way to top off the whole project of writing a brief.” Roberts recalls fondly the ink-stained shirts he would end up with, the bad coffee he would drink at Wilson-Epes-a price worth paying for a top-quality printing job. Wilson-Epes printers knew intimately the Court’s style preferences, Roberts said. “We could always rely on them to mind our p’s and q’s,” said Roberts. The company’s new digital printing process “will do a good job, I’m sure,” said Roberts. “But there’s no substitute for the crisp product you would get from them before.” Former Solicitor General Drew Days III also was sad to hear of the passing of hot-metal printing at Wilson-Epes. “I really like the hot type,” says Days, now a law professor at Yale. “That type of press made a good brief better. You could run your fingers over it.” Before he left office, Days paid a visit to Wilson-Epes to see how it was all done. The company did briefs for the solicitor general’s office on and off over the decades, sometimes losing out in cost-cutting campaigns. Wilson-Epes printing did not come cheaply. But there were intangible benefits of doing business at Wilson-Epes, Days says. “They have incredible knowledge of the Court’s conventions. They were like an extension of the Court. And they were always reliable. A lawyer never came to me and said Wilson-Epes couldn’t deliver.” That reliability became harder and harder to guarantee in recent years, says Dorsey. He recalls one 1996 case — Turner Broadcasting v. FCC –in which a 2,550-page joint appendix “almost shut me down. We had to do six months of work in two and a half months.” More recently, the Court’s practice of expediting the briefing schedule to fill its argument docket also accelerated the company’s move to faster technology. “The expedited scheduling fills the calendar nicely, but it nearly killed us,” says Dorsey. Dorsey is still retaining some old-fashioned touches — such as a binding method that allows open briefs to lie flat. And although collectors are clamoring for his old linotype machines and presses, Dorsey will keep some on hand for small specialty jobs and for historical value. “It’s like a one-room museum here,” says Dorsey. “Mr. Wilson and Mr. Epes would haunt me if I got rid of it all.” STEADFAST STEVENS Without fanfare, Justice John Paul Stevens recently celebrated two major milestones — his 25th year on the Court and his 80th birthday. And the way Stevens is talking and looking, they won’t be his last major milestones as an active justice. Retirement seems to be remote from Stevens’ mind. That’s certainly the impression some former clerks came away with after his clerk reunion and party at the Court last month. One unnamed clerk said Stevens actually told attendees that he had no plans to retire, although others deny he said any such thing. On the record, Stevens’ former clerks were exceedingly stingy with information about Stevens’ party, which drew about 130 people, including clerks’ spouses and guests. “It was the typical clerk reunion-more of a celebration of 25 years on the Court than a birthday party,” says Stewart Baker, a 1977 clerk now with Washington, D.C.-based Steptoe & Johnson who helped organize the event. “There was the usual speechifying.” Baker, who was once general counsel at the National Security Agency, skillfully offered few other details about the Stevens celebration. He would not reveal who spoke, what anyone said, or what gifts were exchanged. Of Stevens’s demeanor at the party, Baker would only say, “He enjoyed himself quite a bit.” Baker added, “I think he looks great. I hope I look that good when I’m 65.” FOOTNOTE: At the recent 7th Circuit conference, Stevens made only a fleeting reference to his birthday during his annual speech. He said his older brother recently told him they were both afflicted with TMB. When the younger Stevens sibling asked what’s that? “Too many birthdays” was the reply. CLAIBORNE REMEMBERED Louis Claiborne was born to argue before the Supreme Court. His clear-as-a-bell locution, delivered with an accent that was British by way of Louisiana, lent a palpable dignity and sophistication to whatever he argued as deputy solicitor general. But his arguments and briefs had true depth and integrity as well as panache. His death at age 72 last October was a significant loss to the Supreme Court community. Late last month friends, family and admirers-including his sister Liz, the fashion designer — gathered at Georgetown University Law Center to remember Louis Claiborne. The remembrance was under the auspices of the law school’s Supreme Court Institute and was led by Professor Richard Lazarus, who worked with Claiborne while at the Justice Department. Georgetown Dean Judith Areen hosted the event. Claiborne served in the solicitor general’s office from 1962 to 1970, then moved to England where he became one of the few Americans to be admitted to practice as a barrister. He returned to the SG’s office in 1978 and stayed again until 1985, when he joined the San Francisco firm of Washburn, Briscoe & McCarthy. In that capacity, he continued to argue and brief an occasional Supreme Court case, working until the very end when he died of lung cancer. In his lifetime, he argued more than 60 cases before the high court, including important environmental and Indian law cases as well as several original jurisdiction cases — usually border disputes between states. “There is no alumnus of the solicitor general’s office who is better remembered for his work and has left a more lasting impression,” said current SG Seth Waxman, who never worked with Claiborne, but has heard all the Claiborne lore. He noted that Lincoln Caplan’s 1987 book about the solicitor general’s office, The Tenth Justice, devotes an entire chapter to Claiborne, entitled “The Celestial General.” Caplan wrote, “Within a tradition-minded institution, he was an institution himself.” Waxman read from a brief written by Claiborne in the 1982 case Summa Corp. v. State of California in which he rebuked the California Supreme Court for its approach to deciding a property case. “The California Supreme Court appears enthusiastically to have embraced a new legal Renaissance, in which modern ‘humanists’ rediscover old texts and invoke the distant past to liberate the spirit from the confining ‘shackles’ of a more conventional era. But we are not witnessing Petrarch, mildly unorthodox in reviving Cicero, or Boccaccio retelling irreverent stories borrowed from Ovid. Here, the half-forgotten ancient models are the codes of the Emperor Justinian and Alfonso the Wise of Castile, the Magna Carta wrested from King John and the treatise of Henry de Bracton. We may question whether such a revolution, not in literature or philosophy, but in the law of property, even on the claim of returning to an earlier wisdom, is equally to be applauded.” If he were a justice reading such a brief, Waxman said, “I would just want to rule in favor.” As it turned out, the Supreme Court did rule as Claiborne wanted it to in Summa. Also representing the current SG’s office at the remembrance were Lawrence Wallace, Jeffrey Minear, and Edwin Kneedler. Kneedler noted that Claiborne handled most of the Indian cases that the office argued before the Court. “They played to his sense of history and justice,” said Kneedler. “He helped this nation live up to its responsibilities toward Native Americans.” Claiborne also had an impish sense of humor. A. Raymond Randolph, a colleague in the SG’s office who now sits as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, recalled that soon after Claiborne became a British barrister, he called up Chief Justice Warren Burger to ask if he could wear a wig and gown the next time he argued before the Supreme Court. Burger, himself an anglophile, was apparently tempted to say yes. But after a long pause, Randolph said, Burger turned down the request. “It would be distracting to my colleagues,” Burger told Claiborne. (In Caplan’s retelling of the same story, then-Solicitor General Robert Bork later told Claiborne he should have just worn the wig without asking permission first.) Claiborne’s San Francisco partner John Briscoe, who described Claiborne as “my mentor,” recalled that when Louis mentioned that his sister was Liz Claiborne, the famous name did not ring a bell with him “I shrugged,” Briscoe remembered. “And he said, ‘Among her friends, I’m the one who has to be introduced.’ “ Neither Liz Claiborne nor Louis’ widow, Jackie, addressed the gathering. But Claiborne’s son, Andrew, spoke; his daughter, Michele, sang; and two of his grandchildren, Emilie and Jake, recalled him movingly. Grandson Jake recalled his grandfather’s advice: ” ‘Fly high, boy,’ my grandfather would say.” THE PLAY’S THE THING Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a notable visitor in her chambers recently. when Martin Sheen, who plays the president in the television show “West Wing,” stopped by. According to the Court’s employee newsletter Oyez! Oyez!, Ginsburg and Sheen have known each other since 1962, when they and their spouses attended Lamaze classes together in preparation for the births of their sons James and Charlie, respectively. Charlie Sheen, of course, has gone into the family business of acting, and James Ginsburg is the founder of a Chicago-based classical record company. Justice Stephen Breyer will do some moonlighting Monday night May 15 as presiding judge over a mock trial stemming from the Shakespearean play “Coriolanus.” The trial at the Supreme Court is part of the annual spring dinner of The Lawyers Committee for The Shakespeare Theatre. Styled as Family of Caius Martius Coriolanus v. Republic of Rome, the case will determine whether the property of Coriolanus seized by Rome because of his treasonous acts should be returned to his mother Volumnia, his wife Virgilia and son Martius. Representing the family will be George Mason University law Professor Ernest Gellhorn; representing Rome will be William Kilberg of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “I’ll be the Janet Reno of Rome,” says Kilberg. Breyer, by the way, has some inside knowledge of the case; he played a cameo role as a Roman senator in a March production of “Coriolanus” at the Shakespeare Theatre.

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