State Bar Drops Morrison Address From Event Program
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Morrison Address—an annual feature of the State Bar convention for more than 70 years except during World War II—will not be given this year, a State Bar spokesperson confirmed yesterday.
The Saturday lunchtime spot devoted to the address last year, when it was given by retired Chief Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who spoke about her work as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, will instead be occupied by a Bench and Bar Luncheon. The speakers at the luncheon will be two daughters of Oliver L. Brown, the plaintiff in the landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.
Many activities at the convention this year, and in the legal community throughout the year, have sought to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Brown ruling.
The San Francisco Morrison & Foerster attorney who for the past two years recruited speakers for the address said he does not know whether the event will be resumed in 2005. The State Bar spokesperson cited events observing the Brown anniversary as a reason for supplanting the address, but also could not say whether it will be included on next year’s schedule.
The address is supported by the Alexander F. Morrison Lectureship Foundation, a trust established by four Morrison & Forster partners and named for one of the firm’s founders. Morrison and Constantine E.A. Foerster started the firm in San Francisco in 1892.
The foundation pays the speaker’s expenses. The trust declaration specifies the talks “shall be given by Lecturers, eminent in scholarship,” that “only subjects of especial importance shall be selected,” and that they should “deal with subjects relating to the advancement and development of our law as a system for the administration of justice, or…with the subject of the professional ideals of the lawyer and of his duties to the public, and of the duties of the public with respect to the administration of justice.”
In 1930 the address was given by Roscoe Pound, who was dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936. Robert A. Millikan, who won the 1923 Nobel Prize in physics, gave a 1935 lecture entitled “Whither Civilization?”
Among the other speakers over the years have been Canadian Supreme Court Justice Henry Hague Davis in 1939, Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1950, Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1953, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stanley F. Reed in 1957, Harvard Law School Dean Erwin N. Griswold in 1959, retired Gen. Mark Clark in 1960, Yale Law School Dean Eugene V. Rostow in 1961, Archibald Cox in 1962, former Ambassador to the U.S.S.R. George F. Kennan in 1964, Edward Bennett Williams in 1970, Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. in 1971, then-U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist in 1974, Sen. Frank Church in 1976, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton in 1978, FBI Director William H. Webster in 1984, and former Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr in 1990.
Roland Brandel of Morrison & Foerster, who recruited speakers on behalf of the foundation for the last two years, said he learned in January that the event would not be part of the bar’s event schedule this year. There “wasn’t any discussion” about the longer term future of the event, he said.
Brandel noted that though the trust agreement calls for the current and immediate past presidents of the State Bar to serve on a committee to recruit speakers, along with a firm representative, in recent years it has fallen to the firm member to do the recruiting. It would be “very helpful if that were all reinstituted,” he declared.
Brandel called it “unfortunate” that Wald’s lecture last year was combined with the presentation of several awards at the luncheon. Wald had to rush through the latter part of her presentation.
Brandel said bar officials asked him ahead of time if combining the speech and the awards would be appropriate.
“I should never have said yes,” the lawyer commented, adding that Wald “did something original for us” and did not get a full opportunity to present her ideas.
While the event has “always been well attended,” Brandel said, he noted that in recent years speeches at the bar convention other than the Morrison lecture have frequently been “designed to be entertainment” rather than substantive presentations.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company