Gary Toman, a partner at Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, delivered these remarks last month at the unveiling of a portrait of Senior Judge Lanier Anderson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Toman shared these remarks with the Daily Report.
Thank you, Chief Judge Carnes. Members of the court, Judge Anderson and members of the Anderson family, former law clerks and other distinguished guests, I am Gary Toman, a partner at Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial in Atlanta and a former law clerk of Judge Lanier Anderson. It is my great privilege to represent the 114 women and men who have served as a law clerk to Judge Anderson today at this presentation of Judge Anderson’s portrait.
Today is a happy day, because we have the chance to honor a brilliant jurist, an impeccable public servant and mentor, and a wonderful person. It is also a rare day, because it is not often that Judge Anderson will allow praise to be sent his way. But while we have this opportunity, Judge, your law clerks want to thank you both for your years of exemplary service to our country and for inviting each of us to spend a formative stage in our careers under your tutelage. The relationships that we have with you and the profound effect you have had on our lives are things that we all cherish.
Law clerks are apprentices in the legal trade, and Judge Anderson is a consummate master of the profession. So, what are some of the things that law clerks have learned by working under Judge Anderson? The first lesson is to emulate the Judge’s uncompromising commitment to excellence. The Judge requires clear thinking and careful preparation for himself and his clerks, and he has always strived to be better prepared than the lawyers who appear before him. He maintains that it is essential to develop the best argument on both sides, a principle that works as well in law practice as it does on the bench. He encourages debate, and some of my fondest memories of my clerkship are of the spirited round table discussions in the judge’s office with Ed and Joel, which lasted until the both the subject and we were exhausted. And through his rewrites and edits of law clerk drafts, the judge teaches advanced writing better than any professor I have ever had. Judge Anderson also taught us to be courageous. An example of the judge’s remarkable courage involved the Alday murder cases, where his opinion for the court transformed the way that Georgia Superior Courts approach change of venue motions in capital cases. While the opinion was sure to bring a flood of negative reaction, he wrote it anyway, because it was the right thing to do under the law.
Law clerks also get to experience the Judge’s humility and unselfishness. For example, I am confident that many people here today are not aware of the important role that Judge Anderson played in launching the Eleventh Circuit. In the summer of 1981, Chief Judge Godbold asked for help in finding an appropriate appeal to be the first case in the Eleventh Circuit, in which the court could decide what law would happly in the new circuit. It was Judge Anderson who proposed Bonner v. City of Prichard, a case that had just been briefed that was on all fours with a recently issued Fifth Circuit decision that vindicated certain prisoners’ rights. When Judge Godbold agreed that Bonner was the right choice, he asked Judge Anderson to write the first draft of the Bonner en banc opinion, the final of which Judge Godbold would sign as chief judge. It was my good fortune to assist Judge Anderson with his work on Bonner, and I can testify that Judge Anderson approached the task of writing the Bonner first draft for Judge Godbold and developing the themes of stability and predictability of the law and of prisoners’ right of access to the courts with the same enthusiasm and thoroughness as any opinion issued in his name. At last count the Bonner opinion has been cited in over 18,000 court opinions, which, to put it in perspective, is over four times more than Marbury v. Madison.
But perhaps most importantly, law clerks have also learned, from Judge Anderson’s example, to live both their professional and personal lives with integrity and joy. To this day, the starting point for considering any ethical issue is to ask the question: what would Judge Anderson do in this situation? Moreover, we were fortunate to see first-hand the Judge’s devotion to Nancy, to his children and when they arrived, his grandchildren, and to the community. He embraced our desires to play softball. He celebrated “clerk babies.” More than one of us met their spouse in his office. And with his booming laugh that echoed through the office, he reminded us that it was possible to have fun even when doing the serious work of the law. In short, the Judge taught us to seek balance in our professional and personal lives. Thank you, Judge, for these and many other lessons.
Let me now turn to the portrait. There is a tradition of law clerks sponsoring the commission of a portrait of their judge and recording an oral history of the judge after the judge takes senior status. Wanda Lamar of the Eleventh Circuit Historical Society reached out to Judge Susan Cole and me as two of the “senior” law clerks about carrying on those traditions, noting that it had been over six years since Judge Anderson had taken senior status. Thank you, Wanda, for prompting us to action, and for all the help you have given us in this project. As law clerks, our work on bench memos and first drafts of opinions may have been a bit slow, but what we lacked in speed we tried to make up for in quality. Since, true to form, we were getting a late start, Susan and I tried to invoke that same quality mindset in making the judge’s oral history and the portrait a reality. While the task at first seemed daunting, at the end of one of our first conversations about the project, Susan ended by saying, “Gary, this will be fun.” And it was. With the very generous assistance of Mercer Law School, Susan and I spent a fantastic day with the judge in December videotaping his oral history. Thank you to Dean Daisy Floyd and to Dean Cathy Cox for your tremendous support. That video is now in the final stages of production.
When Susan and I considered commissioning the portrait, we quickly agreed that our most difficult task of the entire project was to convince Judge Anderson to allow the portrait to proceed. Susan and I knew that the judge had not been in favor of previous suggestions about a portrait, but we also knew that it needed to happen this time. So Susan and I did not play fair. We enlisted the help of the judge’s wife, Nancy, and his long-time legal assistant, Sharon Bowers, to make sure we succeeded. After a full court press that culminated in a memorable lunch in Macon, the judge relented and let the project go forward. In truth, the two people who have worked the hardest on this project are Nancy and Sharon. Thank you both. And when we informed the law clerks about the project to do the portrait, the response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Thank you—all of you—for your support and for travelling from all parts of the country to be here today to celebrate the judge.
The selection of the artist to paint the portrait was easy. At lunch, Nancy noted that she and the judge especially liked the portrait of Joe Hendricks, a beloved member of the Mercer University faculty who had been instrumental in integrating the university. The artist of the Hendricks portrait was Rossin, a Bulgarian-born American artist based in Atlanta. It turned out that Rossin is one of the world’s leading portrait painters. Four of his portraits are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, those of Ambassador Andrew Young, baseball legend Hank Aaron, poet Maya Angelou and actor Morgan Freeman. Other portraits he has created include President Jimmy Carter for the Carter Library, a double portrait of the two Presidents Bush for the George H. Bush Library, a portrait of Babe Ruth for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and many other world leaders, captains of business and dignitaries. Rossin also sculpted the Hank Aaron statute for the new Braves Stadium.
Rossin accepted the commission and painted the portrait. You will see it in a few minutes, and I have no doubt you will be delighted. Rossin invited the judge, Nancy, Susan, Sharon and me to preview the portrait at his studio, which is an amazing place. When we saw the portrait, we all thought it was extraordinary. Rossin discussed with us various aspects of the portrait, during which Nancy raised an important point about the eyes—that they were not quite the way she sees the Judge’s eyes. After some reflection and to everyone’s surprise, Rossin turned, picked up his pallet and fine brush and went to work, making subtle changes that added a bit more warmth to the Judge’s gaze. And then he stopped. The artist explained that he could go no further, because this was an official portrait intended to present Judge Anderson’s public judicial demeanor, not the easy warmth he conveys to family and friends. And with that, the portrait was complete. As I sat and watched Rossin with brush in hand, it occurred to me that this was not the first time that I had had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a master at work.
Therefore, on behalf of Judge Anderson’s law clerks past and present, it is with great pleasure that I present to the Eleventh Circuit Historical Society, represented by its President Leonard Gilbert, the portrait of Judge R. Lanier Anderson III, a master of the legal profession, as painted by Rossin, a master of the arts.