The Borking of America: On the Failed Confirmation of Judge Robert Bork

Will Fassuliotis ‘19
Guest Columnist

            The nomination of Robert H. Bork in 1987 is likely the most famous (or infamous) confirmation battle in the history of the Supreme Court. This is evident in that the failed nominee’s name became a verb. No one speaks of “Frankfurting” someone, or “Harlaning” another, but Judge Bork was borked, and so never became Justice Bork. The word has even crossed the Atlantic, with the Oxford Dictionary defining “bork” as to “obstruct (someone, especially a candidate for public office) by systematically defaming or vilifying them.”

            Bork was neither the first nominee to be treated toughly nor even the first in the second half of the twentieth century to be rejected. But something about the Bork nomination was qualitatively different from the confirmation battles that happened before him. People opposed Abe Fortas, Clement Haynsworth, and Harrold Carswell for ideological reasons, yes. But ideology alone could not have sunk the trio. Liberal senators voted against Fortas, and conservative senators voted against Haynsworth and Carswell. There was a sense that if you were a qualified nominee with no personal baggage, you would be approved. Sure, a minority of Senators would gripe and vote against you, but not in large enough numbers to seriously threaten your chances.

            Unlike Fortas and Haynsworth, Judge Bork did not lack personal integrity. Unlike Carswell, Bork was no mediocre candidate. He had a distinguished legal and academic record. He made partner at a major Chicago firm before joining the faculty at Yale Law School in 1962. He was the Solicitor General from 1973 to 1977 under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and he argued over thirty cases at the Supreme Court during that time.[1] His 1978 book, The Antitrust Paradox, revolutionized antitrust law. Retired Chief Justice Burger said there was no one with better qualifications than Judge Bork.

            But most important to his confirmation chances, Robert Bork was a leading proponent of originalism. Only the late Justice Antonin Scalia rivaled Bork’s early importance in developing and evangelizing the method of constitutional interpretation. His method is best explained by his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “The judge’s responsibility is to discern how the framers’ values, defined in the context of the world they knew, apply in the world we know. If a judge abandons intention as his guide, there is no law available to him, and he begins to legislate a social agenda for the American people. That goes well beyond his legitimate power.” No penumbras, no emanations.

            It was for this reason—his originalism and judicial restraint—that President Ronald Reagan selected him to replace the retiring Lewis Powell. Justice Powell was the Justice Kennedy of his time, in that he was the median swing vote. More often than not, he voted in a “conservative” manner. But not always, especially not in cases involving social issues. He voted to eliminate abortion bans in Roe v. Wade,[2] and consistently defended Roe and the right to access abortion in subsequent cases. Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke[3] was a rare “4-1-4” opinion. Four justices believed both racial quotas and affirmative actions were legal, while four justices believed neither were legal. Like King Solomon, Powell split the difference. Powell was the “1.” Writing solely for himself, he ruled that racial quotas were illegal, while affirmative action was not. In the end, he had five justices in favor of the judgement of the opinion, though not the same set of five justices. 

            The counter-revolution that Nixon promised never emerged. Reagan, who shared many of the same criticisms of the Court, this time only compounded with abortion and affirmative action, would not make the same mistake. Bork was no Harry Blackmun; he was no Powell. He would vote, in the eyes of the conservative movement, the correct way—every time.

            Bork’s philosophy was not lost on Reagan’s opponents. For the very same reasons Reagan lauded Bork, his opponents derided him and his “extremist views.” The Bork hearings popularized the idea of a nominee being “outside the mainstream” of legal jurisprudence. Opponents likewise knew what replacing Powell with Bork would mean for the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence. Senator Ted Kennedy’s vivid painting of “Robert Bork’s America” was the most memorable moment of the confirmation battle. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Kennedy warned that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”[4]

            The battle lines were drawn. The balance of the court was up for grabs.

            We should first back up, however, to place Bork’s nomination in context. Reagan had already added two Justices to the Court. In his first year as President, he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor, fulfilling a campaign promise to nominate the first female justice to the Supreme Court. O’Connor was confirmed 99-0. In 1986, only a year before the Bork nomination, Reagan sought to replace the retiring Chief Justice Burger by promoting Justice William Rehnquist, and then selecting Judge Antonin Scalia to fill Rehnquist’s open spot. Rehnquist faced some opposition, but, per the old paradigm, was confirmed by a comfortable margin of 65 (forty-nine Republicans plus sixteen Democrats) to 33 (thirty-one Democrats plus two Republicans). Scalia faced no opposition, and was approved 98-0.

            What was the difference? Liberal opponents focused their firepower on Rehnquist, but were unable to convince the center-left to join them. Concentrating on Rehnquist, they mostly left Scalia alone. Scalia’s ethnicity as an Italian-American, the first to sit on the Supreme Court, helped him as well. Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo, also an Italian-American, supported his nomination despite their ideological differences.

            By the time of Bork’s nomination, Republicans would no longer control the Senate. Now, instead of Senator Strom Thurmond as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Joe Biden would wield the gavel as he prepared to run for President in 1988. But Democratic control did not doom Bork—Ford, Nixon, and Eisenhower were successful even as the opposing party controlled the Senate—though it did decrease the margin of error. But most importantly, the Supreme Court was not up for grabs in the same way Powell’s retirement made so clear. Rehnquist replaced Burger, and Scalia replaced Rehnquist. This barely moved the court rightwards, if at all. Bork, unequivocally and undoubtedly, would.  

            Two-and-a-half-months after his nomination, the Senate held its first hearing for Judge Bork. During that time, Bork faced the first sustained media campaign against a nominee, including an advertisement narrated by Gregory Peck—Atticus Finch himself—echoing Senator Kennedy’s [5]. But Bork’s confirmation hearing is not remembered only for the vitriol. Judge Bork, unlike every Justice to come before him, did not shirk questions when asked about his constitutional and legal philosophy. [6].” In 1997, then-Professor Kagan said the Bork hearing was “the best thing that happened, ever happened, to constitutional democracy.” Bork sparred with senators, debating the whole gamut of original intent, questions of precedent, liberty and the bill of rights, privacy, equal protection, and many other issues.

             While a “masterclass” in Constitutional law, Bork was ultimately unsuccessful in convincing senators on the fence that he was indeed not “out of the mainstream.” The two-and-half month campaign took its toll. Neither the Reagan Administration nor other supporters responded in kind—they believed Bork’s brilliance would shine during the hearing and convince the necessary number of senators. Bork’s long history, however, would hurt him in the proceedings.

            Opponents presented Bork with some of his controversial writings and asked him to explain them. For some, he backtracked, saying he either changed his mind over time or that some works were intentionally provocative in his capacity as a professor. Where once he denigrated precedent, he discovered a newly found respect for it during the hearing. To take one example, Bork wrote an article in the New Republic in 1963 criticizing the public accommodations requirements of what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During the hearings, he renounced his work, but this played into his portrayal as an opponent of equal rights for African Americans. This was a studied effort by opponents. As Senator Biden explained, “Every time I could get him to recant, I won. People don't believe in recantations.” But he was more than willing to defend his views, including an extended colloquy with Senator Biden about whether the constitution included a right to privacy (Bork argued it did not).

            While Supreme Court hearings were first televised in 1981, Bork’s hearing was the first to get sustained play on television. People did not just read Ted Kennedy’s excoriation of Bork in the paper, they heard and saw him excoriate Bork on TV. Bork’s professorial manner did not help him either. Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote that Bork came off as “cold-hearted” and “condescending,” a man who “looked and talked like a man who would throw the book at you—[7] When asked by a sympathetic senator why he wanted to be on the Supreme Court, he answered it would be “an intellectual feast,” which only played into the perception that he did not care about people.  

            Bork lost the battle of public opinion, and he lost in the Senate. The Senate voted against confirmation, 42 in favor (forty Republicans plus two Democrats), 58 against (fifty-two Democrats joined by six Republicans). Bork and the Reagan administration were unable to rally conservative and Southern Democrats to his side, while liberal Republicans defected. Reagan’s second choice, Judge Douglas Ginsburg, had to withdraw after his use of marijuana as a professor with students became public. Finally, Reagan would successfully nominate Anthony Kennedy, who would be just as much a swing Justice as his predecessor.

            No nominee with the depth of writings on significant and controversial constitutional issues as Bork did would ever be nominated again. Kennedy, and every nominee afterwards, including Kagan, would decline to comment about his or her judicial philosophy in any more than a cursory manner, in order to maintain plausible deniability. Now with Justice Kavanaugh confirmed, we come full circle. Kavanaugh is expected to be the fifth conservative justice, finally creating a conservative majority that has been decades in the making. But unlike Bork, Kavanaugh has never indicated so, at least not out loud. He studiously refused to answer whether he thought there was a right to privacy or what it entailed. For those interested in ideas, their silence and feigned ignorance is a shame. But it is, politically, completely understandable. After all, no one wants to be Borked.


[1] In his capacity as Solicitor General, Bork fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Saturday Night Massacre, in accordance with President Nixon’s order. After initial attacks, this did not play too much a role in the hearing after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who resigned instead of following Nixon’s order, defended Bork’s action as necessary to prevent the Justice Department from operating without a leader. Bork would later appoint a new special prosecutor, who continued without interference.  

[2] 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

[3] 438 U.S. 265 (1978).

[4] The speech was captured on C-SPAN, available at <>. Kennedy’s speech begins at 25:35, this excerpt starts at 27:36. It is worth listening to.

[5] The commercial is available on YouTube, “1987 Robert Bork TV ad, narrated by Gregory Peck,” <>.

[6] The Bork Hearings: Highlights from the Most Controversial Judicial Confirmation Battle in U.S. History. Ralph Shaffer condenses the voluminous transcript into a readable book about the questions asked and answered.

[7] The Bork Turnoff, October 9, 1987.

Impeachment Stories: Congressman Gerald Ford’s Attempt to Remove Justice William O. Douglas

Will Fassuliotis ‘19
Guest Columnist

            On November 12, 1975, Justice William O. Douglas announced his retirement in a letter to President Ford. The Justice suffered a debilitating stroke in 1974, but tried to continue serving. His condition became so poor, however, that the other Justices created a plan for any case that Douglas would be the fifth vote in an otherwise evenly split, four-to-four decision. The Justices agreed they would hold the case over for re-argument in the next term, awaiting either Douglas’ recovery, or a new judge (Douglas was unaware of this arrangement). Eventually, former law clerks and friends convinced Douglas he was incapable of fulfilling his duties.

            In his responding letter, the 38th President heaped praise upon Douglas, writing “[y]our distinguished years of service are unequalled in all the history of the Court.” By one measure, President Ford was objectively correct: Douglas’ 36 years on the bench were over two years longer than any other justice.[1] Despite the warm words, the true nature of their relationship could be encapsulated in their encounter at the swearing-in ceremony of Douglas’ successor, the soon-to-be-Justice John Paul Stevens. After the ceremony, President Ford approached the wheelchair bound Douglas. “Good to see you, Mr. Justice,” greeted Ford. Douglas responded sarcastically, “Yeah. It’s really nice seeing you. We’ve got to get together more often.” After this brief exchange, Douglas was wheelchaired away.[2]

            While impolite, the retired Justice’s terse reaction is immediately understandable; only five years earlier then-Congressman Ford sought to impeach Douglas. Now, Douglas’ poor health forced him to give the choice of his successor to the same man who tried to forcibly remove him. Never before and never since has a President replaced a Justice he actively sought to force off the bench.

            It was April 15, 1970, when the Republican House Minority Leader rose in the Capitol building to demand an investigation of Douglas and, if warranted, a vote on impeachment. This period in time, as we have seen, was a pivotal one for the Court. Warren Burger had replaced Earl Warren as Chief Justice, and Nixon saw two of his nominees for the second opening go down in flames.[3] Ironically, the disgraced Justice who Nixon tried to replace, Abe Fortas,[4] resigned in part “to protect Douglas,” hoping to forestall further investigation into Douglas’ extrajudicial activities.

            Ford presented four charges he thought rose to impeachable offenses. It was in this context that Gerald Ford uttered the (in)famous standard for impeachment, that “an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” The first two charges stemmed from alleged conflict of interests. In one instance, Douglas sold an article to a magazine facing libel charges in a case that ultimately reached the Supreme Court. Despite being paid by one of the litigants, Douglas did not recuse himself and joined a dissent from the denial of certiorari and would have ruled in favor of the magazine and overturned the jury decision against the magazine.[5]

            The second charge involved Douglas serving as the only director of the Parvin Foundation. As director, he made over $96,000 in the ten years before 1970 (for comparison, his judicial salary over the same time period was slightly over $396,000). While the Foundation had legitimate functions seeking to develop leadership in Latin America, the Foundation’s namesake —Albert Parvin—was a sketchy individual. He publicly associated with criminals and was heavily involved with the casino business in Las Vegas when that industry was synonymous with mafia interests. Realizing the bad optics and similarities to Fortas, Douglas put an end to the payments soon after Fortas resigned.

            The final two charges criticized Douglas’ political activity while he was a Justice. The first charge alleged association with “new leftists” and “leftist militants” of the Center for Democratic Institutions,[6] the second charged related to the contents of his recent book “Points of Rebellion” which, per Ford, “fanned the fires of unrest, rebellion, and revolution.”

            Douglas’ actions were problematic. The editor of Douglas’ private papers, Melvin Urofsky, believed his actions fell short of an impeachable offense, but cautioned that “Douglas’s experience should serve as a warning, not an example” to judges. I am inclined to agree. The last two charges demonstrate that, however egregious Douglas’ actions, Ford’s charge was political in nature. And because they were political, Douglas ultimately continued without any formal censure. Where Ford sought a select committee to investigate the charges, Representative Andrew Jacobs beat Ford to the punch. Even though the Democrat opposed impeachment, by introducing the resolution he ensured the Democrat-dominated Judiciary Committee would oversee the investigation—a committee chaired by a good friend of Douglas.

            Douglas and Fortas’ circumstances share some similarities, especially with their payments for legal work from their respective Foundations. Ultimately, their differences as individuals likely accounts for their different fates. Fortas was associated with Lyndon Johnson at a time when the Vietnam War made Johnson unpopular with the liberal legislators, people who Fortas needed to support him. However, distrust of LBJ easily transferred to Fortas.

            Douglas, on the other hand, was an icon to the same liberals. Bob Woodward explained Douglas’ philosophy succinctly: “He was for the individual over government, government over big business, and the environment over all else.” “Wild Bill” was larger than life, in no small part because he encouraged those myths. Douglas was easily the most prolific writer on and off the Court, writing more opinions than any other Justice, as well as over thirty books expressing his political views. He wrote his opinions quicker than any other Justice; one legend holds that once, when Justice Whittaker struggled to write a particular opinion, Douglas, despite having already written the dissent, offered to write Whittaker’s majority opinion for him. Whittaker accepted, and thus, according to the story, Douglas became the only Justice to write both the dissent and majority of the same opinion.[7]

            Eight months after Ford spoke, the committee voted to take no action. The results were predictably on a party line. This was the last serious attempt to impeach a Justice of the Supreme Court. But historically, judges were the most common targets of impeachment. Of the nineteen officials impeached in American history, fifteen were judges. The first person to be impeached, convicted, and removed was Judge John Pickering in 1803—for “mental instability and intoxication on the bench”—while the most recent impeached and convicted was Judge Thomas Porteous in 2010 for accepting bribes. Impeachment and removal are not always career ending, however. Despite being removed in 1989, former Judge Alcee Hastings later won election to the House of Representatives. He is now the longest tenured congressman in the Florida delegation.

            Ford lambasted the committee’s investigation as a sham—no public hearings, no subpoenas, nothing. But Ford’s failure may have been preordained over a century and a half earlier, way back in 1805. Justice Samuel Chase remains the only Justice to be formally impeached by the House of Representatives. Chase was, by many accounts, a rank partisan, even more so than Douglas. At a time when Jeffersonian Republicans controlled the political branches, this attribute was dangerous for the ardent Federalist. Believed to still be smarting over John Marshall’s rebuke in Marbury v. Madison, President Jefferson encouraged Congress to impeach Chase. Formally, the charges of impeachment concerned his conduct as a trial judge (this was the time when Justices presided over trials in addition to hearing appeals). But to Jeffersonian Republicans, this could be the first step in restraining the activist Federalist federal judiciary and replacing them with committed Jeffersonians. If the Senate was willing to remove Chase, perhaps it would be willing to remove Marshall as well.

            Proving that history has a sense of irony, Vice President Burr presided over the trial that featured some of foremost legal minds of the time. Ultimately, none of the eight articles of impeachment succeeded. Only one count garnered a majority, but it still fell short of the two-thirds required for removal. Justice Chase’s acquittal stands for the proposition that whatever a “high crime” or “high misdemeanor” means, they do not encompass mere political or partisan disagreements. For better or worse, judicial independence was secured. Better off, Ford learned, to just wait until the pain in the neck retires.

[1] For context, 13,365 days before the date of publication of this article would be after the movie E.T. was released, but before Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

[2] This account comes from Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s The Brethren, p. 402.

[3] For more, see “‘Aren’t the Mediocre Entitled to a Little Representation?’ Nixon’s Failed Supreme Court Nominees” in the February 6, 2019 issue of the Virginia Law Weekly.

[4] See the November 28, 2018 issue of the Virginia Law Weekly.

[5] Ginzburg v. Goldwater, 396 U.S. 1049 (1970).

[6] Which one biographer believed was false.

[7] Justice Whittaker’s biographer, Craig Allan Smith, purports to dispel this legend as made up. Debunking Douglas: The case against writing both majority and minority opinions. David J. Danelski purports to refute Smith’s refutation in Justices Douglas and Whittaker in Meyer v. United States: A false claim rebutted. Truly, I can think of nothing that better illustrates Douglas’ polarizing reputation.

Law Weekly's Guide to Conspiracy Theories

Will Palmer ‘21
Staff Editor

I’m taking a quick break from the Malicious Chinchilla series at Brutus’ request; following his devastating loss in the Paw Review contest, he has cloistered himself away in the manor’s East Wing to plot in seclusion. I’m not trying to get another glass eye, so I’m going to leave the little guy alone for a bit so he can blow off some steam by hacking into the NSA or whatever he does for fun. In the meantime, let’s do something completely different


I’ve just gotten in some transmissions from some high-level contacts and folks, I’m not messing around here—they are out to get you, and out to get your families. They’re devious people, and they smell like sulfur. Look at Tom Cruise. I’ve smelled ‘em. Reptilians, they all smell the same. You learn this from observing the enemy, really trying to walk a mile in their shoes. Obviously, I can’t do that because I’m not a goddamn goblin, but you get what I mean. Let’s talk some hard truths you didn’t learn in elementary school because they didn’t want you to know.


The Moon “Landing”: Come on, sheeple. Wake up and smell the coffee: we didn’t land on the moon because the moon is going to land on us. I’ve got a number of transmissions here, from trustworthy sources, and my own observations, folks—they all indicate what the big government calls a ‘moon’ is actually an asteroid being piloted towards Earth at an extremely slow speed. I’m talking slower than an old turtle, folks. Real slow. But it’s coming, alright. And when it gets here, the Illuminati, they’re going to go into cryo-slumber in their subterranean temple complexes, while the rest of us get flattened. Gets me riled up just thinking about it.


Tupac & Biggie: Both were “killed” in drive-by shootings in the late 90’s—or so they would have you believe. But what makes you feel better inside: believing that, or believing that they’re chilling on some tropical island, getting higher than Elon Musk and making fun of current rap beefs? Sometimes you gotta go with your gut, and that’s what I’m doing on this one. My gut is a powerful force, as long as I keep that bad boy powered up with chili in the mornings.


The Shape of the Earth: I’m not talking about the fish sex movie here, folks. I’m talking about the planet Earth, and how people have been brainwashed into thinking that it might be round. It’s clearly a cylinder. Just look on the internet. The truth is out there.


Avril Lavigne Being Alive: She’s dead, folks. Replaced by a clone in 2003. Next.


Project MKULTRA: Everyone knows about this one, right? Secret CIA experiments on unwitting subjects and all that. The government is using LSD to try and perfect a brainwashing technique to fight the Commies. That’s just what they want you to think, people. Wake up. This is a classic example of an unfalse flag—so, just a flag, I guess. The government makes itself look bad to distract from what’s really going on. The invasion of Iraq? Another example. They were just plotting the financial crisis the whole time.


Vaccines: Say what you will about their effectiveness, folks, I’m not putting anything into my body that’s made by big government. That’s why I’ve developed my own personal lab to manufacture vaccines for a variety of illnesses. You can buy all the necessary equipment on my website or borrow it from your least perceptive neighbor.


The Roswell UFO Crash & Area 51: There’s a lot of fake news flying around out there about these two, and let me tell you, it’s hard to sift through all of that and get a sense of the truth. But I’ve got some insider sources on my team, and I’ve done cite checks on all their research, and it’s good stuff. What they’re telling me is that aliens didn’t land at Roswell in 1947. What really happened is that a reptilian-operated craft landed in Roswell in 1973 and that landing created a space-time anomaly. It’s really intense math stuff, folks. Gives me a headache. But this establishes pretty conclusively that the reptilians have time travel capabilities. Either way, Area 51—my sources are telling me that it’s really the entrance to the Illuminati vault for the American Southwest, the cryo-chambers, all that.


CERN: They’re building an interdimensional hell portal over there, folks. This place is just shifty. The Large Hadron Collider is the most dangerous thing for the world since I personally averted Y2K, and I won’t stand for it. There’s a donation link up on my website to help fund my upcoming protest—I’m going to chain myself to their infernal machine and dare them to fire it up.


Remembering Allison Angel '19

Jansen VanderMeulen ‘19
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Allison Angel, a member of the Class of 2019, passed away in February after a battle with cancer. In tribute to her memory, her friends wrote the messages below. To commemorate her life, The Class of 2019’s Gift Campaign are designating funds to a remembrance tree in her honor that will be placed at the Law School. If you'd like your pledge to go towards that memorial fund, please chose "unrestricted funds" on your pledge card and include a note that this is for the "Allison Angel Fund." If you pledge online and would like to do this, choose “unrestricted funds” and email Julia ( or Robbie ( with that preference. The Law Weekly salutes Allison’s memory and sends its sincerest condolences to her friends and family.



Brian Diliberto ’19

Allison and I were both in Section D so we naturally spent a lot of time together during our first year at UVA Law. We immediately connected because we were both from California, we each attended the University of California, we both had an interest in entertainment law, and we both had no idea what was happening in Torts.

I will always remember Allison as someone who was a champion for women and the LGBT community. During law school, she always sought out new ways of helping others. We spoke about her interest in participating in the Innocence Project Clinic and I remember encouraging her to apply because I knew they would be lucky to have her. 

Before law school, Allison worked at a law firm in San Francisco and gained knowledge in the area of entertainment law. I was fascinated with her experience and excited to meet another student with the same curiosity and passion for the industry. We spoke about our professional aspirations and she described returning to California and possibly pursuing entertainment law as a career.

Allison left an enormous impact on our section and the law school. She was deeply loved because she was incredibly down to earth, optimistic, and a joy to be around. She loved EDM, music festivals, and was a real adventuress. She had a free spirit and a level of charisma that I deeply admired. I will always remember Allison for her great sense of humor, unapologetic hipster vibes, and her vivacious approach to life. 

Allison will forever be a part of my experience at UVA Law and I will always cherish our time together. My thoughts are with Allison’s family and friends during this very difficult time.



Clay Davis ’19

When I close my eyes and bring Allison to mind, I can see her smile, her infectious smile, so clearly. Allison and I became friends through our many hours spent in the climbing gym, trying to escape the stress of 1L. A small group of us formed a climbing crew: Allison, Alex, Jenny, Taylor, and I.

The afternoons spent bouldering at Rocky Top were some of my happiest in 1L. A mix of physical activity, mental release, and laughs as we fell time and time again off the wall. Allison’s smile permeates those memories. We were both horrible at climbing but, nevertheless, still loved every moment.

As the year progressed, I got to know Allison better. And what I witnessed was a truly remarkable woman. I wish I could give light to Allison through my words, but it is simply impossible.

Allison was kind. She was thoughtful. She was genuine and confident in herself. She was light and fun. She was a true friend. Above all, she was strong as hell: through all the trials and struggles of 1L, Allison never complained, even as she silently suffered from cancer.

I miss her dearly. The pain of losing her hurts, hitting deep inside my chest. What I would not give to see Allison walking around the halls of the law school, looking like she just stepped out of a Coachella fashion magazine, just one last time.

Allison was a free spirit, with a subtle light around her and sense that she was on the edge of growing wings, leaving the troubles of law school behind her. Reflecting now, her body was only holding her free spirit down, chaining her to the ground. But now, she’s been freed to soar the heavens as, living up to her own name, an angel.


Jenny Lamberth ’19

Allison and I became friends during 1L when we started rock climbing together with a few other classmates from the law school. Allison had such a calming presence and radiated love and laughter. It still amazes me that, while battling stomach cancer and 1L all at the same time, Allison never told anyone or complained once. Rather, she was walking around the school in her bell bottoms and excited to be jetting off to fashion week or a music festival that weekend. I will always remember Allison as being adventurous, sunshiney, and making the most of everyday. 



Teddy Kristek ’19

Allison was, and still is, an inspiration to me. She was courageous, pursuing her dreams in the face of so much adversity. And through it all, she never took a smile off her face. She would light up every single room she walked through and made every day brighter. I am so grateful to have been placed in her section and have gotten to call her a friend. I could not have made it through 1L spring finals without her. Whether it was her unique sense of style (almost always complete with trendy glasses and a big hat) or her love for music and dancing, Allison lived life in her own perfect way. Everything she did, she did with an unmatched passion and enthusiasm. The way she treated life should be a model for all to live by. She will be missed dearly. 


Mary Seraj ’19

It’s hard to put Allison Angel into words. She was really something else. She was the sort of friend that would pull an all-nighter with you to support you during a long night of studying, the type of person that never judged or asked anything of anyone, and, honestly, the most inspiring human I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our best memories weren’t the ones that involved extravagant trips or once-in-a-lifetime events, but ordering in takeout and just bonding over all life had to offer. She was a radiant human being and a source of unparalleled positivity. For Allison, it was all about being the best version of yourself and enjoying life for what it is. I will always remember her as the girl I met at Admitted Students Weekend who rocked bell bottoms, lived for sunshine and music festivals, and saw the absolute best in everyone she met. My memory of her is this image and every time I walk down Withers-Brown Hall, I see Allison and think just how lucky, we the Class of 2019, were to have had her in our lives.



Kyle O’Malley ’19

In the six years I knew her, Allison played many roles. At first, she was just my colleague. Then, she became my comrade. After a while longer, she became my best friend. Finally, she became my classmate and conscience. I looked forward with joy to see what she would accomplish. At no point along the way did she fail to show the kind of generosity of spirit, and openness of mind, for which she was so well regarded and so well respected. Like so many others, I am devastated by her passing. This world will never be the same without her sense of humor, her sense of style, and her sense of justice. But that devastation cannot, and with the support of others will never, erase the memories she left me with; nor will it expel her spirit from its home in my own. Instead, her spirit will remain, a reminder to ask, as the late Mary Oliver did: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” 


Jessie Michelin ’19

Allison Angel is someone I looked up to and will continue to throughout my life. She was nothing but kind to me from the moment I met her and from what I saw, she treated everyone with this same kindness. Allison listened to you and cared what you had to say. She was someone I knew I could turn to whenever, and she would be there. One of the things I admired most about her was her positivity. She saw the good in any situation and did not want anything to stop her from enjoying her life––even her own illness. Moreover, Allison was determined. She was determined to accomplish her dream of becoming a lawyer and was determined to beat her illness. She continued to be the bright, passionate, warmhearted, and tenacious spirit that she was throughout it all. Some of my favorite memories with Allison are staying up until 4 a.m. eating the famous C’ville dumplings after nights out with our friends and chatting about everything and anything until we realized what time it was and that we should probably go to bed. Allison will not be forgotten and will be deeply missed. I am extremely saddened that she will not be able to accomplish her dreams, but I will try to carry her spirit with me the rest of my life. I love you Allison!



UVA's Final Four Through a Tar Heel's Eyes

Lena Welch ‘20
New Media Editor

When you walk into my apartment, there are a few things you can’t help but notice. First, the Carolina blue. It looks like it was decorated by a seven-year-old UNC fan. Second, I have more than 100 press passes displayed on my walls. When people ask about them, I say they are from my past life. Before law school, I worked in the sports information field, which is kind of like media relations plus keeping statistics for university athletic teams. But it’s misleading to say that sports are my past life. Watching sports will always be one of the most consistent things in my life, and this weekend is a good example of what I mean.

Thursday, like many other 2Ls and 3Ls, I attended the Libel Show, but I also checked my phone during the second act to figure out when the tip-off for UVA Men’s Basketball Sweet Sixteen game would take place. I went home from the show and turned on the TV. Ultimately, I fell asleep on the couch watching the Hoos top the Ducks.

Friday, I downloaded the March Madness app on my phone so I could watch the UNC-Auburn game while attending the UVA-Richmond men’s lacrosse game. Saturday, after watching Carolina’s Men’s Lacrosse defeat Duke in its first ACC game of the season, I attended a party, which turned into a basketball watch party as UVA earned its first trip to the Final Four since 1984. The other partygoers can attest that 1) I said Ty Jerome should intentionally miss the second free throw for the chance to send the game to overtime (even though I never thought it would work), and 2) I told everyone to calm down and not celebrate too much.

Sunday, I went to another Men’s Lacrosse game as UVA hosted first-year program Utah, which is helmed by former UNC volunteer assistant coach and all-around great human Brian Holman, before heading over to the Park for my section’s softball games. All the while, I kept a close eye on the scores from the remaining Elite Eight games, even watching over Editor-in-Chief Eleanor Schmalzl’s shoulder in the dugout.

This is a typical weekend for me. If I’m not attending lacrosse, then I’m attending soccer or wrestling. If I’m not falling asleep to the late basketball game, then I’m falling asleep to football or hockey. So, sports are very much a part of my life––including softball at UVA Law.

I’ve only played in one section softball game. I was dressed like Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, and I stood in left field, praying the ball would not come my way. However, I have found that my way to contribute to my section, and my way to make a lot of enemies, is by keeping a book. I have a love-hate relationship with baseball statistics, but it’s pretty safe to say that the umpires and the other teams have a hate-hate relationship with me keeping statistics at softball games. And my section just appreciates that I keep the lineup straight. This weekend was particularly special for our section softball team because it marked the return of all-star third base coach and all-star PA Alexander Hoffarth ’18 to North Grounds.

But as much as I care about section softball―and let’s be clear, I care too much―I cannot bring myself to care about UVA sports. Alexander is the perfect counterpoint. He also went to an ACC school for undergrad. He also attended a bunch of sporting events at UVA. And he also is a beacon of school spirit (if you think I’m not, tell that to the children’s socks I bought at Courts & Commerce and regularly wear). Alexander treats the Cavaliers as his team, unless they are playing his Boston College Eagles.

On the other hand, it took me ages to wear a UVA shirt to a sporting event here, because I’m not a UVA fan. I’m a Tar Heel. This weekend, someone even suggested that UVA losses don’t need to upset me and I could celebrate the wins. I pointed out that that is being a fair-weather fan, and there’s nothing more despicable to me. Becoming a fan means taking on the wins and losses. While I’ve come to have quite reserved reactions to the outcomes of games (compare Carolina beating Duke twice this season to Carolina losing in the Sweet Sixteen), that doesn’t mean I want to adopt another team. Instead, I hold my Heels close to my heart, and I attend UVA games to get my fix of live sports.

So, what happens when UVA Men’s Basketball goes to the Final Four? It’s not clear. Some say I should get over myself and just become a UVA fan. Some say an allegiance to the ACC means I should root for the Cavaliers. My dad says I should cheer for UVA so he can win his bracket pool. My mom says I should support UVA because Tony Bennett is “a hottie.”

In all likelihood, I’ll just fall asleep on my couch watching the game.


New York City: A Hillbilly's Perspective

Kolleen Gladden ‘21

If you tried to tell my friends back home that I was from a “small town,” most of them would laugh at you. Joplin, Missouri, is a bustling metropolis, and by that I mean it has both a Chipotle and a Target. It is, by far, the largest town within a seventy-mile radius. However, when I first told someone that Charlottesville was the biggest town I’d ever lived in, I was met with first confusion and then outright horror. That reaction started to make sense when I began my love affair with “The Big City” in fall of last year. After recently spending another week in NYC, the differences between The Big City and my Ozarkian home became even more glaringly and hilariously apparent. Without further ado, I present New York City, through the eyes of a simple Missourian.

Kolleen Gladden ‘21 strikes a pose with fellow feminist Lady Liberty. Photo Credit César Andrés Sobrino Acuña

Kolleen Gladden ‘21 strikes a pose with fellow feminist Lady Liberty. Photo Credit César Andrés Sobrino Acuña

On driving: When driving through C’ville for the first time, my dad chuckled and mused, “You’re not going to like the traffic here.” He was right. After graduating from dirt roads to Barracks Road traffic jams, I felt ready to tackle Manhattan during rush hour (a great decision, really). NYC driving has become my favorite variety of traffic. There are truly no rules. Turn signals are a long-gone memory, a distant fading dream. With my massive Yukon and Missouri license plate, I ruled every road I turned onto. Watch out, there’s a Midwesterner on this road and she doesn’t fear death. All went smoothly until a car cut me off, causing me to shift over one inch and mirror-first into a semi parked halfway into my lane. If you see me driving around with a duct-taped mirror, go ahead and mind your own business.

Side note: Next time you meet Midwestern folk, go ahead and ask them if they’ve ever accidentally honked at someone. They will look off into the distance, far gone, lost in a jarring piece of the past. By contrast, New Yorkers seem to have this perception that, upon the moment of a light turning green, the car in front of them can accelerate at the speed of an attack helicopter. My apologies, Peggy, I’ll be sure to drive my Bugatti Chiron next time I visit.

On road signs: What are these “no standing” signs? What do y’all have against standing? Does everyone have to move forward at all times?

On the streets: I am convinced the reason New Yorkers are stressed is because there aren’t any dirt roads to take it out on.

On the trains: I’ve become more experienced at navigating the subways, but we’re still working out the kinks. My dear friend César and I were sitting in a subway car, blissfully unaware that the train had been stopped for a while and every other person had vacated. Suddenly, the doors closed, and the train barreled into the distance before halting in the darkness, screeching the entire time. César looked around, obviously concerned, before taking a sip of his green tea and musing with a smirk, “I’ve lived a good life.”

On restaurants: I knew my down-home days were behind me when I heard the words, “would you like sparkling or still?”

On Times Square: No matter how far you walk, all Manhattan roads lead back to here. You trek for hours. You see lights up ahead. They are unfazed, ever blinking. Your eyes glaze over. It is never dark.

On the people: I love New Yorkers. I’ve never met a group of people so totally infazed by such a plethora of things. During my time spent on the subway alone, I saw walking transformers, pole dancers, preachers, rappers, wildly vicious arguments, and pyramid schemers of all varieties. Nobody so much as took a headphone out of an ear. And yet, so many of them are apprehensive of anything that isn’t New York City. I had a conversation with a tough-as-nails woman when it came to all things city who said she was terrified of the Midwest because it’s dark and quiet. I also had three people specifically tell me they thought that the Ozarks was a place conjured up by Netflix for their series Ozark. “I thought that region was mythical,” one person told me, “you know, like Narnia.”

On Madison Square Garden: It is neither square nor a garden. We were all disappointed.

On Columbia: As we scoped out the campus, a tour guide walked past. She gestured at the pristine, sprawling lawns. “When the weather is nice, we like to come out here and protest.”

On thrifting: Those who know me know I am an avid thrifter. I like to stroll into a secondhand store, grab a ridiculous pair of pants for five bucks, and get out. NYC thrift stores are more of an experience. I’d rather not spend ninety-five dollars on a used pair of paint-stained jeans while a DJ spins records on vinyl behind me. With that said, there are bargains to be found if you know how to hunt. Awoke Vintage has a bin of cheap items, and I snagged a $3 floor-length tweed coat from a street vendor in Morningside Heights.

On Sak’s Fifth Avenue: We walked into the store. We found a clearance aisle. We found a pair of boots for $1,600. We walked out of the store.

On Nina: Nina is an absolute gem. She works at a vintage shop in Williamsburg, never wears shoes with less than a six-inch platform, and hates the outdoors. She warmly spoke with my friends and me for an hour about her love for the city. My favorite quote was, “I love NYC rudeness. I lived in LA for a year. They’re too friendly there. Just one time, a man pushed me so hard I almost fell over. I loved it. He didn’t even say sorry.”

On public restrooms: Do y’all not have bladders???

Overall, the city of New York is an eclectic, fascinating myriad of unique people and neighborhoods. I suspect the love affair will continue a while longer––even if I am the only one wearing cow-spotted kicks. 

Libel According to a 1L

Sam Pickett ‘21
News Editor

            Listen. We have fun here. But somebody has to keep things serious. When pressing issues arise—like who is going to serve us alcohol every other week and where I’m going to get course packets I may not open—somebody has to step up to the plate. So when I heard about Libel, a supposedly hilarious and fun-filled experience, I knew I had to seriously investigate. I decided to investigate so seriously, in fact, that I auditioned for the show and landed a spot—one that gave me access to undercover sources and the underground world of Libel.

Nicole Llinares ‘19 gives stage directions to a group of actors. Photo credit Kim Hopkin ‘19.

Nicole Llinares ‘19 gives stage directions to a group of actors. Photo credit Kim Hopkin ‘19.

            The first thing I talked to my source about was the lack of a theme this year. To be completely honest, I wasn’t aware that these types of things were supposed to have a theme, given that they are already based around law school. But given that prior shows had themes, this still seemed to be a dramatic change. Don’t worry though, my source said that theme “was taken away to the farm” and that it is now “very happy there.” I wonder if it’s the same farm my old dog went to…

            Anyway, this source also shared with me a number of the sketches that will be accompanying this year’s show. We have SCOTUS sketches, sketches about drama between 1L sections (imagine West Side Story, but more dramatic), musical numbers, professors playing Dungeons and Dragons in Professor Setear’s basement, and videos starring people ranging from Professor Cohen to the fabulous member of Career Services. But, some even spicier rumors have emerged. Apparently, we are finally going to figure out who ANG is, “To Catch a Predator” style, based off ANG’s activity on the ATL message boards. Dean Dugas is going to open the show with a rousing performance of “Star Spangled Banner” sung in falsetto, and an anxiety-ridden 1L is going to close the show by screeching for four minutes straight. I can’t wait. I can also neither confirm nor deny a report that Lil Sebastian will be there. As in, I actually can’t confirm or deny it because I was hiding in a closet and listening to the directors’ conversations so it could be Lil Sebastian is coming or that there is a song based off of “Under the Sea” by The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian. Either way would be pretty cool though??

            Now I know what you’re thinking—with all of these things happening, how long could this last? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m so committed to this story that I shut myself in a theater closet (the same one where I heard the Lil Sebastian rumor) and timed it during rehearsals. I’ve now determined that it could either be one hour and five minutes long, or it could be seven hours long. And while I can’t tell you exactly, I can tell you it has to be somewhere in-between those two times. You’re welcome for this insight. If you’re anxious about sitting there that long unmedicated (I’m in the show and I am also anxious) HAVE NO FEAR, THERE WILL BE BEER![1] So, sit down and listen real quick because this is arguably the most important part of the article. If you get a drinking ticket, you can get two beers before the show and two beers at intermission. According to my sources, 2 + 2 = 4. That means you get FOUR beers for just FIVE dollars extra. That is a DEAL and I should know because I am from the Midwest and therefore very uncomfortable committing to spending money unless it is a DEAL. SORRY for all the CAPS.

            But you won’t really even need alcohol,[2] because this show is destined to be great. When I was in my closet,[3] I heard Lin Manuel Miranda watching rehearsals in the audience and crying because he can never be good enough. (You could say his “Shot” wasn’t good enough.) The show has even been nominated for a Tony, which gives K-Don a shot at the much coveted EGOT and the screeching 1L a chance at “Best Original Score.” And, while it’s hard to admit it, this investigative reporter can confirm that Kim Hopkin, John Dao, and Nicole Llinares are ready to deliver a truly excellent show. Even if Lil Sebastian doesn’t show. But to find out, you’ll have to buy a ticket—available from 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. in Hunton Andrews Hallway every school day until March 28.


[1] I’m really proud of this one. Okay? I am. Screw the haters. This is me. Please keep reading though it gets better.

[2] Though I’ve heard section S plans to pregame 24 hours before…a true lesson in endurance that would make Big Law blink.

[3] This is the third time I’ve mentioned being crushed in a closet in one article…I feel like I’m in a stereotypical Disney movie about a kid being crammed in a locker.

The Malicious Chinchilla Part Three: This Time It's Personal

Will Palmer ‘21
Staff Editor

            Brutus and I, having survived our first few months living together at college, moved to the D.C. suburbs for the summer. I grew up in the area, but staying at my parents’ house was out of the question––my father made it very clear that “The Vermin” was not welcome in his establishment. Thus, I rented an apartment close to my work, smuggled Brutus inside under a sheet, and continued to make poor life decisions. One day in late July serves to indicate the character of our lives during those months.

            I woke up at around two in the afternoon. The inside of my head felt like Dresden circa February 1945 and Brutus was sitting on my chest, holding a mirror up to my nostrils (presumably to check for breathing). He seemed mildly disappointed at the results but made no move to leave. I heard a dull metallic noise emanating from outside. Thwang…thwang…thwang. “Ugh.” I sat up, boosted Brutus onto my shoulder, and staggered to the bathroom. Barry, one of my friends from home, was slumped over next to the toilet, sleeping peacefully in a pile of Cheetos bags and crushed Lime-a-Rita cans. I gave him a rousing kick in the ribs while I shoveled Advil into my face, then wandered out to the living room. It appeared that the Tunguska explosion had been recreated at a slightly smaller scale within my apartment; my friend Luke was seated, bodhisattva-like, at the center of the wreckage, a trifecta of hookahs aligned on the table in front of him. I rubbed at my temples. “Where’s Derek?”

            Luke gestured towards the terrace and I glanced through the sliding-glass doors to the source of the noise. Derek was out on the balcony in a bathrobe, firing a paintball gun at cars in the parking lot across the street and hawking dip spit into a bucket full of cigarette butts and Bud Light cans. I sighed, took a hit off the middle hookah and coughed up approximately three lungs. “Christ Jesus man, what flavor is that?”

            Luke looked at me reproachfully. “Don’t take the lord’s name in vain, bro. It’s Gummi Bear flavored.”

            “Are you goddamn serious? I don’t-” The faint sound of shattering glass interrupted my rebuttal. Derek hurried inside, shutting the door and pulling the blinds closed before he slid the paintball gun behind the couch. I continued in a hiss, “When I’m abusing my lungs with tobacco products I want to know it! You don’t see me walking around hitting fruity flavored vape pens, do you?”

            Brutus slithered off my shoulder and onto the table, padding between the hookahs before hopping onto the floor and disappearing into the kitchen.

            My phone rang. I groaned and accepted the call. “Hey, what’s up, Maddie?”

            Maddie was displeased with me. “What’s up is that your goddamned rat tried to kill me with a hairdryer while I was in the shower last night!”

             “Wait, why were you showering here?” I replied. “You know my bathroom is mad gross. This place is a hive of scum and villainy.” (For the record, my current domicile is quite clean. Just saying.)

            “My water was out. We talked about this. You guys couldn’t have had all those Lime-a-Ritas––oh, my god, you did.”

            From the kitchen, Barry called out, “Bro, who put all this broken glass in the garbage disposal? Oh, shit.”

            Luke, Derek and I simultaneously responded, “What is it?”

            “Uh. Brutus is, uh, in the wall.” Barry shot back.

            “Maddie, I gotta let you go, Brutus is in the wall.” I said.

            “He’s in the what? Leave him! He tried to electrocute me!” she fumed.

            “Yeah, he does that sometimes. Especially when people call him a rat. I’ll have a talk with him if-slash-when we get him out...” I hung up and jogged over to the kitchen.

            “Well,” said Barry, “the little bastard got under the cabinets here,” he gestured beside the fridge, “…and now he’s there.” A loud gnawing noise echoed out of the wall.

            After mulling it over, I decided that the best way to lure the little guy out would be by playing Peruvian pan flute music at a high volume and hoping that he heeded the call of his species’ homeland. Unfortunately, he is from New Jersey, and there’s not a lot of overlap there. He remained in the wall, merrily chewing away at what I assume were key structural supports for half an hour, before wriggling out from underneath the cabinet and hopping back to the couch like nothing had happened. I regarded him sternly and said, “Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you weren’t cute as hell?”

            He cocked his head and looked back at me for a moment, then leaned down and started chewing the power button off the TV remote.


Strengthening American Democracy by Strengthening the Electorate

Ali Zablocki ‘19
Articles Editor Emeritus

China lifted a billion people out of poverty and is experiencing six percent GDP growth on an annual basis. America was once a bastion of innovation and entrepreneurship, a leader in investment banking, and home of the world’s supreme armed forces. Today, America is afflicted by politics more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War, budget cuts to science and education initiatives such as the space program, and crumbling infrastructure. At the same time, problems ranging from terrorism to cyber warfare and climate change to income disparity loom unrelentingly large, and it is unclear how America will confront them. What does all this say about the ideals of individual rights and democracy that America has prided itself on for so long? 


On Friday, March 1, 2018, the Student Legal Forum—one of UVA Law’s oldest student organizations, now celebrating its seventy-second year—hosted General Wesley K. Clark (retired) in a conversation about what many believe to be the greatest single issue facing America today: a dearth of true leadership at a time when our country can no longer avoid addressing these serious problems and when American supremacy cannot be taken for granted as it has been for decades. 

General Clark retired in 2000 as a four-star general after thirty-eight years in the U.S. Army, at which time he turned his skills to investment banking and took a foray into politics as a Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 2004 election. Prior to his retirement from the military, he served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, during which time he directed NATO’s response in the Kosovo War. General Clark was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Defense Distinguished Service Medal (five awards), Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and honorary knighthoods from the British and Dutch governments. General Clark credits his time in the military, at West Point (where he was valedictorian and studied the Russian language), and Oxford University (which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar) for giving him diverse international experience, but he notes that it was not until he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and had a chance to interact with people all over the country that he truly got to know America politically. However, to quote the General, he is “two years older than Donald Trump and did fight in Vietnam,” and his generation is “about done.” It is up to us to ensure the effectiveness of our country’s leadership and to decide where the country is headed and how we will get there. In a bid to support rising generations, General Clark founded the nonpartisan organization Renew America to diminish partisanship in public discourse.

General Clark believes that in order to strengthen the democracy, we must strengthen the electorate. Specifically, “We must strengthen the way we challenge those running for office.” In order to raise the quality of elected officials and put effective leaders in office, private individuals must ask hard questions about the issues facing the country and accept only thoughtful answers that delve into the complexity of these issues. General Clark acknowledges that obtaining anything but the soundbites to which we are accustomed has become increasingly difficult in the era of television and internet. According to Clark, the press is happy to headline controversy rather than real issues, because that is what sells. Cults of personality drive elections. Candidates today are selected based on their looks, their personal lives, and their overall charisma rather than their hard skills and plans for their time in office. JFK had a beautiful wife and a royal sister-in-law, but as the now-public record shows, he was not terrifically well-prepared to cope with the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, if we could move beyond such superficiality, engage in genuine discussion, and elect politicians whose focus is on achieving the solutions we the people want, progress will come.

General Clark explained that by his analysis, American politics runs on a forty-year cycle, with business-dominated policy eventually ceding to progressive political reforms. For instance, FDR pushed through massive reforms, propelling the country out of the Great Depression, into WWII, and onward to the rise of the military industrial complex––whereby government investment enabled large-scale innovation that spilled over beyond the defense sector (e.g., integrated chips). However, the rise of Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of Economic Thought in the latter half of the 20th century led to business-led policy displacing government regulations and initiatives. Clark identified the Clinton Administration’s authorization of mergers between investment and consumer demand-and-deposit banks as the moment at which the government’s role reached its nadir. By Clark’s calculation, we are now at the end of a such a forty-year cycle of diminishing the role of government. Efficient market theory and the shareholder theory of value reign supreme, even as major issues go unaddressed by big business, and our positions in foreign affairs are messy and often reflect a lack of comprehensive strategy. Now is the time to force candidates to come to terms with the issues the private sector has been unsuccessful in addressing. 

Meanwhile, as America veers toward dystopian ideological posturing and partisanship, a nation on the other side of the world that was the greatest on Earth for millennia vies to reclaim that position. China is the birthplace of silk, gun-powder, and a fierce exam-based educational system. Though socialist, the Chinese government has a meritocratic basis, much like its university system. General Clark recalled how Madeleine Albright once described America as the indispensable nation, one which must be involved in everything. Once upon a time, Great Britain ceded leadership of the world to its best friend, the U.S.; now China is jostling to become the U.S.’s best friend and the next recipient of this title. During the 2008 downturn, China invested heavily in infrastructure and fared better than the U.S.; according to General Clark, this took a toll on China’s view of the U.S. The challenge for the U.S., then, is to prove that the rules made by a group of men over two hundred years ago can solve problems just as effectively or even more so than China’s Communist system.

As our generation rises, there are three lessons General Clark wished to impart to us. First, if the U.S. government and the American people work together, there is nothing we cannot do. History shows that some of America’s greatest achievements have been attained through government intervention; however, equally importantly, there are some issues which may only be thoroughly addressed through broad-ranging government initiative. For instance, a 5G network would be a major advance in the private sector but also raises national security issues more aptly addressed by the government than private business. Similarly, consumer and investor demand might propel some environmental initiatives but not comprehensively enough to avert devastating climate change.

Second, if the people cannot accept the government as an ally and instead vote for the marketplace to determine the American vision, we should not go to war unless it is forced upon us. Military intervention is not necessarily the most effective solution; General Clark noted, with respect to Venezuela, that chopping away at the problem from the edges—working with international organizations and countries such as China and Russia to force relief in, and then supporting interference-free elections rather than taking over the government—likely would be more effective than sending in U.S. troops.

Third, we cannot withdraw from a world of which we are a major power: those outside forces will eventually impact us; therefore, it is essential to use preventive diplomacy, to engage with allies, and to have able leaders. 

Throughout American history, there has been an evolving vision for the U.S. people. During World War II, the dream was for everyone to have the opportunity to become a homeowner; during JFK’s time, it was of Camelot; during the Reagan administration, it was of America as the shining city on a hill. Our generation must generate its own vision of America and work to ensure the officials we elect are capable of implementing it. In order to do so, we must challenge candidates to give us proof of their capabilities before we give them power. In doing so, we have the opportunity to prove once again the superiority of those classic American fundamentals of individual freedom and democracy.


Technology Panel Thrills

By Drew Calamaro ‘21 Staff Editor

On Friday, March 1, the Emerging Companies and Venture Capital Club (ECVC) and the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology hosted a panel with general counsels from technology companies to discuss their careers in the technology sector. The panel was moderated by Cooley’s firmwide head of business Mike Lincoln, a UVA Law lecturer and 1991 graduate.  

The panel members included General Counsels Chris Winters (Appian), David Woolston (Nuxeo), Stephen Riddick (Tenable), and Brian Brown (AvePoint). A big shoutout to Mike Lincoln ’20, Moussa Ismail ’20, and Vikram Vivek ’20 for organizing this event, as well as the general counsels for choosing to attend.  

Mike Lincoln opened the event by having the panel introduce themselves and explain what they do for their respective companies. Lincoln then asked the panel how much of an expert general counsels of tech companies need to become in the technology they are dealing with in order to be effective at their jobs. 

According to Riddick, you need to become very familiar with the technology. But, he joked, there are people who will “never respect my depth of understanding of our product.” The key, he said, is to ask a lot of questions to the people in your firm. Woolston added that the deference goes both ways between engineers and lawyers, since you are still the expert of your field in the room.  

Lincoln then asked what students thinking about joining a company or being on the business side can do in school to position themselves best. Winters responded, “get to know your classmates.” Winters went on to say that lawyers practicing in M&A, real “deal junkies,” make for great tech lawyers since they are used to working on a deadline. Winters did say that, although he remembers very little from law school, negotiation seminars were incredibly important. He compared the skill to a muscle that, if worked consistently, gets better over time.  

The rest of the panel agreed with Winters, and Riddick added that it is helpful to join large law firms to develop the expertise needed to conduct large deals. Riddick also emphasized the importance of relationships in law school and beyond, saying that they “are everything.” Three out of the four general counsels also spoke to relationship building by saying that their current jobs were the result of cultivating good relationships.   

The panel discussion then turned to what the split is like between the business side of their position and the legal side. Brown answered that the most successful people understand what the business objectives are and allow the legal side to play in that direction. The goal, he said, is to “offer solutions if you tell the business side that they can’t do something.” Winters stated that, for him, everything is “100 percent business.” He reiterated that it is important to think of yourself as more than just a lawyer, and that revenue is “everything.”  

Other fantastic quotes include, “associate yourself with revenue,” and “there’s a lot of ‘general’ in “general counsel.”” Absolutely a huge day for this reporter, since he is a big fan of revenue, and is not the biggest detail guy. Whether or not that is what the GCs were addressing is up for debate, but I will choose to interpret it that way. The panel closed out by speaking to the importance of client service inside and outside of the company. Riddick stated that “you had better know client service walking into a company.”  

There was a happy hour held at Maya afterwards, where this reporter ordered what he thought was a gin and tonic, but ended up being an electric green cucumber drink. A good time was had by all, however, as students were able to speak with Lincoln and Riddick. One final thanks also to Lincoln for bringing in engaging guests and setting aside time for this event.  

The Fried Chicken Sandwich Column, Part III

By Drew Calamaro ‘21 Staff Editor

**Author’s note:  Last week, I was led to believe by someone I thought I could trust that the word “dummeranwalt” was German for “Hamburger.” It is not. It means “stupid lawyer.” As an aspiring lawyer, you are fine to call me a sociopath, uninteresting, and you can even call me undeservedly self-serious. But you can never call me stupid. Law students like myself and my readers are not stupid lawyers, and never have been. We are law students, and therefore that insult doesn’t apply to us. I apologize to my readers for publishing that insult. 

We are at the end of our journey of finding the tastiest and least problematic chicken sandwich. That being said, it is important to remind the readers that this column’s objective—relating chicken sandwiches to the political landscape—is never truly over. There will always be more things to get offended by and more chicken sandwiches to eat. As a media member, I will never stop asking whether something enjoyed by nearly everyone is problematic. 

One other note to all who are concerned; I found a parking garage that gives you free parking for the first hour, since the Virginia Law Weekly will not allot me money for travel, despite repeated requests.1  

Draft Taproom – 425 E Main St. 

Draft Taproom has over sixty self-serve taps to choose from, which is extremely alarming. Yet another corporation has replaced its bartenders with artificially intelligent pourers. Do you think that these consumers are equipped to choose amongst so many beers, and then pour them without the cup foaming over? I don’t think so. Luckily, I am perfectly capable of pouring beer, and this did not happen to me. 

The chicken sandwich here is the classic combination of “Special herbs & spices, shredded lettuce, pickles & Dukes mayo on a brioche bun.” We do not need to revisit here the horror that is the appropriation of the brioche bun. However, given that Taproom lets the proletariat become their own bartenders, it should surprise no one they are stealing French bread like it’s 1789.  

The sandwich itself was very pickly—pickled onions and pickled pickles. If you’re looking for a briny, average meal, this is it. But given that Taproom’s AI revolution will lead to riots by disenfranchised bartenders, I rate this sandwich as highly problematic. I give it the full Louis XVI/Louis XVI for problematicness, and a Louis XI/Louis XVI for taste.   

One other note to make is that I ate the longest freedom fry I have ever seen in 25 beautiful years of life. If the culmination of Monsanto-engineered crops and pesticides and bee colony collapse disorder is foot-long French fries, I think that we are paying a small price for the benefits we are seeing.  

The Fitzroy – 120 E Main St. 

Due to the cheapness of certain editors, I had to order this sandwich to-go so that I could leave the parking garage in under an hour and not get charged.2 Travel costs aside, the Fitzroy has a chicken sandwich that is “boneless, buttermilk battered, a little honey and hot sauce.” Confident is the restaurant that chooses not to hide its chicken sandwich behind a veil of lettuce, or rest it on a crutch made out of tomato. This, folks, is pure and honest chicken sandwichery, or chicanery for short.  

The sandwich has two fried chicken thighs stacked on top of each other. Perhaps they thought this was a great idea, but unexpectedly getting a pair of thighs covered in honey and hot sauce to the face is not exactly a good time. The sandwich is delicious though, and I give it a 9.1/10 for taste. 

However, since Fitzroy is Anglo-Norman for “son of the king,” I also give it a 9.1/10 for problematicness. Great chicken sandwiches should never be gender biased, and this is an anti-nepotism column.  

Chick-fil-A – 350 Woodbrook Dr. 

I would first like to say that if you haven’t tried the chicken breakfast burrito at Chick-fil-A, you haven’t started living life. But we are here for the chicken sandwich, and more specifically, the “spicy deluxe meal (Chick-fil-A sauce included) with a large fry and an ice water.”  

It seems that Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches has ruffled the feathers of my media colleagues over at The New York Times and The Washington Post. I, for one, choose to be open minded about my chicken, and do not discriminate based off of a chicken’s religious background. I make room for chickens of all religions. As for the sandwich itself, the spicy deluxe with pepper jack cheese is consistently a revelation to eat.  

What’s more, unlike Michael’s Bistro, which appropriated Oaxacan queso onto its sandwich, I see nothing of the sort done with Chick-fil-A’s “spicy deluxe.” On the contrary, calling something more exciting than a glass of milk or Chief Justice John Roberts “spicy” is the most American act of all. The use of “spicy” here is American, through and through.  

As a result, and for the first time ever on this column, I am awarding the Chick-fil-A sandwich a perfect 66/66 books of the Bible for taste, and a one-way ticket to heaven for having nothing problematic whatsoever. A simply incredible finish to an even more incredible column! 


Final Rankings: 


Taste:  66/66 books of the Bible 

Problematicness:  None—one-way ticket to heaven 

The Fitzroy: 

Taste:  9.1/10 

Problematicness:  9.1/10 

Michael’s Bistro:  

Taste:  177/180 LSAT 

Problematicness:  3.54 GPA 

Iron Paffles: 

Taste:  173/180 Press Freedom Index 

Problematicness:  147/180 (still very high!) 

Whiskey Jar: 

Taste:  10/12 eggs 

Problematicness (Brioche tastiness): 47/50 freedom fries 

Draft Taproom: 

Taste:  Louis XII/Louis XVI 

Problematicness:  Louis XVI/Louis XVI 


Taste:  3.5/5 stars (Southwest airlines food rating) 

Problematicness:  3.5/5 stars (Id.


Taste:  163 LSAT 

Problematicness:  Tune in next week! 


Chief Schmalzl Takes Charge

M. Eleanor Schmalzl ‘20

For years I have dreamed of attending UVA Law. I knew from a young age that this place was special, and for a long time I hoped to walk these halls, make incredible lifelong friendships, and, most importantly, play softball.[1] But the last thing I ever expected was not only to be involved with, but also to be Editor-in-Chief of, the Virginia Law Weekly.


Like most people who become involved with the Law Weekly, I began attending meetings as a 1L because of the free pizza and the hope to have something interesting to put on my resumé come OGI. Thanks to Jenna Goldman ’18, Editor-in-Chief during the 2017-18 school year, and Julie Dostal ’19, nicest person to me on Monday nights in the Law Weekly office when I was a 1L, I kept coming back to edit every week and enjoy some laughs with fun upperclassmen. And come spring semester, then Editor-in-Chief Jansen VanderMeulen ’19 approached me, much to my surprise, about being the paper’s Executive Editor. Despite knowing very little about the position, or about how bad pizza smells when you sit in a room with it for six hours on a weekly basis, I agreed to devote my Monday nights and take a more serious role with the newspaper.


It was in that first week as Executive Editor that I realized my passion for the Virginia Law Weekly. After publishing our very first edition under the new leadership, the papers were taken from the stands in protest of a controversial piece submitted by a non-staff student that had made its way into our pages. Additionally, a large display condemning the article was left outside of the Law Weekly office––a copy of the missing issue marked up with highlighter and red text written across the page, “SHAME” in all caps. Seeing this, I felt threatened. And I felt like someone was trying to scare the paper’s leaders away from publishing controversial articles submitted to them. Suffice it to say that the new executive board was shaken, unsure of what our tenure would look like from that point forward.


Those events left me feeling passionate about the importance of freedom of speech and the press. They also transformed my previous enjoyment of the Law Weekly into much more. No matter my feelings toward the controversial article of that week or others like it, I feel strongly that opinions should be heard. And when people disagree, I feel just as strongly that these people should have a place where they can challenge those opinions––as many students did by writing response letters in subsequent editions of the paper last spring. I don’t view the Law Weekly as the appropriate posting board of all things controversial, but I am thankful to have had this experience. It led me to love a facet of this law school I never dreamt I would care about––this newspaper. It led me to want to take on this role as Editor-in-Chief. 


As Jansen mentioned in his farewell article last week, the Law Weekly has come a long way in the last five years. I feel so lucky to have had such strong leaders before me who have left the paper as healthy as it is. And I feel fortunate to have such a supportive Law School community that cares to pick up a copy every week and actually read our sometimes-funny and hopefully-informative content. Now, as I begin my tenure as Editor-in-Chief, I feel a real responsibility to continue to push the Law Weekly toward excellence. At this point in the paper’s rejuvenation, this year’s leaders have a high bar to clear if we really want to improve the Virginia Law Weekly. Luckily, we have an enthusiastic editorial board and strong group of staff editors who cram into the office on Monday nights, eager to produce content and push the Law Weekly to new heights.


This coming year, I hope to make the paper more interactive and better serve the needs of the students, present and former, at UVA Law. I know a lot of you pick up the paper for the ANGs, the professor quotes, and the Sudoku,[2] and I know some of you have become loyal readers of our restaurant reviews and recaps of Law School events. But I hope to expand our readership by producing more exclusive, valuable content and making it readily available both in print and online. I also hope to provide better means of soliciting feedback from our readers so the paper can learn what you want more of and how we can better serve you.


With that, I charge those reading this to reach out to us. Without our readers, there is no Virginia Law Weekly. Tell us what you like. Tell us what you would like. Tell us where we can improve. Engage with us. During my time as Editor-in-Chief, my goal is to serve you and this Law School community. After years of dreaming about this place, I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute to it in this unique and, for me, unexpected way. To everyone who is reading this article: I appreciate your involvement with this paper, whether it’s scanning the ANGs every week or reading the pages cover-to-cover. Help make it a great year and leave this paper––and this community­­––better than we found it.

[1] Shout out to Peter Dragna ’20 and Ben Hawkins ’20 for dubbing me the Leslie Knope of softball. I can’t thank you enough for such kind words.

[2] Or the rare but valuable crosswords.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich Column Strikes Back

Drew Calamaro ‘21
Chicken Reviewer

I’m big enough to admit that I made a lot of sacrifices this week. I could have stayed inside during the snow day, and I could have stayed home with a stuffy nose on Saturday. Instead I walked all the way to the car and drove to review more chicken sandwiches. Doing so took a physical and emotional toll on me, but I refuse to complain. I especially won’t complain about the $3 parking fee I had to pay for one of my reviews that the Virginia Law Weekly[1] refuses to refund; not in this column, and especially not to the readers.


Instead, like a true member of the media, I am here to relate chicken sandwiches to the current political environment. This requires asking tough questions addressing the intersectionality of problems and matic-ness. No one else is asking these questions, and like the chicken and the egg, it has to start somewhere.


Zinburger’s Southwest Fried Chicken Sandwich, featuring the sweet peppers our correspondent found so difficult to swallow. Photo Drew Calamaro /  Virginia Law Weekly

Zinburger’s Southwest Fried Chicken Sandwich, featuring the sweet peppers our correspondent found so difficult to swallow. Photo Drew Calamaro / Virginia Law Weekly

Zinburger—973 Emmet St N


Don’t let the name fool you—Zinburger is not the German word for hamburger. My good friend from Germany told me that the German word for hamburger is dummeranwalt, which I trust to be correct since, as he said, translating German back to English on Google never works right.


German names aside, Zinburger’s Southwest Fried Chicken Sandwich includes “Pepper Jack Cheese, Red and Yellow Peppers, Poblano Peppers and Avocado Crème.” The chicken itself was good, but, to my horror, the sandwich had bell peppers on it. When it comes to chicken sandwiches, I draw the line at bell peppers. They have no place in the public sphere except in a salad ordered by Amy Klobuchar that I assume contains the souls of her underlings topped with a nice green goddess dressing.


I was so upset over this fowl-pas that I forgot to feel outraged enough to read Paul Manafort’s 800-page sentencing memo. Does that make me an irresponsible citizen? Perhaps. But remember that Zinburger calls this a “Southwest” chicken sandwich by virtue of putting the worst vegetable on the best possible food. Therefore, I give this sandwich a 3.5 out of 5 stars for both taste and problematicness, which is the same as Southwest Airlines’ food rating on TripAdvisor.


Chicken and . . . “paffles”? This do-it-yourself offering won high marks from our reviewer— for democratic liberal internationalism as well as flavor. Photo Drew Calamaro /  Virginia Law Weekly

Chicken and . . . “paffles”? This do-it-yourself offering won high marks from our reviewer— for democratic liberal internationalism as well as flavor. Photo Drew Calamaro / Virginia Law Weekly

Iron Paffles & Coffee—214 W Water Street


The sandwich here is build-your-own. I am not convinced that the public is ready for this type of power. Chicken sandwiches, like societies, cannot be trusted to the masses and instead require chicklets and balances. However, as someone in the roost-ruling class, I knew the only correct order was a chicken sandwich with aioli, tomato, slaw, and pepper jack cheese.


The “paffles” are a mixture of French puff pastry and Belgian waffles, which is a touchy combination of countries that hasn’t been attempted in over half a century. However, the result here is a beautiful piece of chicken nestled between two flaky waffles. Given that the term “flaky waffles” is literally redundant and that combining the two words gives you “falafel,” calling the sandwich bun a “paffle” starts to make more sense.


Since I am giving Iron Paffles free press, and Belgium is ranked 7th out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Index, I will give this sandwich 173/180 on tastiness. However, since France is 33rd on the Press Freedom Index, I will give it a 147/180 on problematicness, which as we all know is still very high!


The author’s sandwich at the Whiskey Jar. Photo Drew Calamaro /  Virginia Law Weekly

The author’s sandwich at the Whiskey Jar. Photo Drew Calamaro / Virginia Law Weekly

The Whiskey Jar – 227 W Main Street


Here we have “Shredded Lettuce, Pickles, Tomato, [and] Duke’s Mayo on a Grilled Brioche Bun.” Innocuous, you might say, but we need to talk about something first: the Brioche Bun.


Folks, I haven’t seen appropriation like this since Ruth Bader Ginsburg stole Barry Goldwater’s glasses. I don’t think we depended on France to gain our independence, so why are we depending on them to make our sandwiches? Maybe I’m simple, but the only French “bread” I’m interested in appropriating is more funds for NATO. I give the Brioche Bun 10/10 baguettes for problematicness. However, it was delicious, and I take the baguettes back and give it 47/50 FREEDOM fries for tastiness. The other 3 fell down my car seat.


Overall, this was a strong contender. I don’t know who “Duke” is or why he has his own mayo, but seeing as mayo contains eggs, there are arguably two chickens in this sandwich. Therefore, I give it 10 eggs out of a basket that can hold 12, because you should never put all of your eggs in one basket.


Current Rankings:

Michael’s Bistro:

Taste:  177/180 LSAT

Problematicness:  3.54 GPA

Iron Paffles:

Taste:  173/180 Press Freedom Index

Problematicness:  147/180 (still very high!)

Whiskey Jar

Taste:  10/12 eggs

Problematicness (Brioche tastiness): 47/50 freedom fries


Taste:  3.5/5 stars (Southwest airlines food rating)

Problematicness:  3.5/5 stars (Id.)


Taste:  163 LSAT

Problematicness:  Tune in next week!

[1] Editor’s note: at no point did this author ask for reimbursement by the Law Weekly. Fake news.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich Column

Drew Calamaro ‘21
Chicken Reviewer

              John F. Kennedy once said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” My fellow fried chicken sandwich eaters, this column is doing that other thing. I will fulfill Kennedy’s mandate, complete his vision, and find the best fried chicken sandwich in his brother’s alma mater’s city, just as he wanted us to.

              The question that any self-respecting future lawyer will ask, however, is “What is a chicken sandwich?” It is therefore my charge to find the outer bounds of what defines a chicken sandwich in this column as well. Important questions like, “Does a chicken tender hoagie count?” and “Do I include buffalo chicken sandwiches?” will be explored, as well as the finer points of mayo. There will even be an ode to iceberg lettuce (the polyester of lettuces).

This chiken does not yet know its fate. With your contribution, it may, soon. Photo sourced from

This chiken does not yet know its fate. With your contribution, it may, soon. Photo sourced from

              How does one rate fried poultry? What are the criteria? Well, seeing as beauty is in the eye of the cluckholder, I will rate it according to a rigid system that I develop for each specific sandwich that is liable to change sporadically. That is the only fair way to do it, and is what our founding farmers would have wanted.

              Of course, as a responsible journalist, I will relate each and every chicken sandwich to the Trump era, and ask if it is problematic to eat it while Trump is in office. Why? Because the media doesn’t do this enough, and now that I am a member of it, I am going to ask it even more. Questions like, “Is it problematic that I eat the sandwich while scrolling past an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet without reading it?” or “Should I care about Trump’s restructuring of the military funds to build the wall without declaring a national emergency while biting into a gorgeously breaded piece of white meat?” are the ones the people want to hear the answers to.

              Join me, and together, we will finish what Kennedy started. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard to eat so much fried chicken in so little time; hard to say no to a non-conforming sandwich; and hard to find the holy grail—the perfect, juiciest, and crispiest chicken sandwich.

Michael’s Bistro and Tap House – 1427 University Ave., Charlottesville Va

              Is the name too long? Perhaps. Does it seem like this “Michael,” whoever he is, didn’t know whether he wanted to open up a bohemian bistro near the sea or a dark and smoky tap house full of bar fights and broken dreams? Absolutely. But in the end, I refuse to go to to find out why he couldn’t decide between the two. Facts are dead.

              Getting to Michael’s was tough enough—they only have two signs with giant arrows pointing to where the door is. Yet it’s easy to trip over one of them and keep on walking, all while avoiding eye contact with everyone around you. Luckily, I did not do that and nimbly ran up the stairs.

              But it’s time to talk turkey. What we got here is a true heavyweight—a “fried chicken thigh with pickled jalapeno Oaxaca queso and housemade slaw on an ABC butter roll.” All for $9.50. When I saw that description, was it problematic that I stopped thinking about the corporate greed that went into the making of that chicken, the thousands of chickens who laid eggs and died in the past so that this one chicken could get fried up in the crispiest batter and smothered in queso that I know does not come from Oaxaca? As a media member, I will gladly keep asking these questions without taking any personal responsibility myself.

This chicken does know its fate. Fate was not very kind to this chicken, but fate bestowed a delicious gift upon someone else. Photo from

This chicken does know its fate. Fate was not very kind to this chicken, but fate bestowed a delicious gift upon someone else. Photo from

              I was going to rate this according to how much debt I felt like I had accumulated since I started writing this, but I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I’ll give this sandwich a solid 177 on the LSAT. When rated using the problematicness scale, however, I’ll give it an average GPA of 3.54. What tipped it past a 3.5 mark was the ABC bun. As an anti-number guy myself, I am all for naming buns after letters of the alphabet. However, this could quickly turn exclusionary with the finance-law crowd, resulting in a competing 123 bun that could do some damage.


Cook Out – 1254 Emmet St N, Charlottesville, Va

              This place is best enjoyed on a Friday night when you have to Uber there. Welcome to the south baby. I rate this sandwich a solid 163 on the LSAT—price point is fantastic.  Is it problematic if I give this sandwich a 1.0 GPA, meaning it’s nearly not problematic at all? Tune in next week to find out!

Malicious Chinchilla: Part the Second

Will Palmer ‘21
Staff Editor

            First things first, we should probably discuss the photo that accompanied the last installment of this series (hopefully there’s a new one in place by now). I’m not going to lie, it’s not a great look. The lumberjack phase was questionable in and of itself, and I’ve never been good with student ID photos. That said, I can assure you that it is indeed my student ID photo and not a mugshot––those are either for people who got caught or people who wrote about their misadventures in the school paper before the statute of limitations ran out. Far be it from me to fall into one of those camps. But I digress.

            We left off with my new chinchilla, having already demonstrated a somewhat malevolent streak, freshly installed under the bed in my dorm room and ready to wreak havoc. In less than a week, my friends had organized a death pool regarding how long Brutus would last in his new environment; the longest bet was two months. To everyone’s great surprise, he not only survived, but prospered (depending on your definition of “prospered”). Within three weeks, he was slamming whey protein shakes and doing prison workouts in his cage while blasting Immortal Technique on a speaker he’d procured on the dark web. By the two-month mark, he was the most swole chinchilla on the eastern seaboard and had dropped five mixtapes on DatPiff (if you’re wondering, the most popular one was All Idez On Me). Needless to say, my cohort conveniently “forgot” the death pool and acquired a newfound interest in treating Brutus with proper deference.

            The local squirrels were put on notice as well. On a fine spring day in mid-May, I was polishing my glass eye when I noticed that the door to Brutus’ cage was hanging open. Even worse, my collection of 16th-century throwing stars was missing. I realized that the little fella may have taken the wrong lesson from the episode of Family Guy where Meg goes to prison. Sure enough, I looked out the window and saw Brutus stalking towards a group of chittering squirrels in the center of the quad, ready to find the proverbial toughest guy in the room and punch him in the teeth. I hurried downstairs, prepared to throw hands if my sidekick needed some backup.

            As it turned out, he did not––he didn’t even need to use the throwing stars.  He approached the erstwhile leader of the squirrels, a nasty specimen that my friends and I had dubbed Harvey Dent (one guess why we picked that nickname). I like to think that Harvey said something uncultured about chinchillas and that Brutus told him he’d need to “get woke,” but I’ll never know for sure. At any rate, Brutus performed what appeared to be a Tombstone Piledriver and introduced Harvey’s good side to the ground at Mach 2. Seriously, he hit the floor so hard that even the NFL would have a hard time covering up the long-term damage. Over my shoulder, I heard my friend J.T. say, “Damn, dude, this is like that scene from Terminator 2.” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

            “The one in the biker bar?” I responded, as we executed a crisp dap.

            “Word,” J.T. said. “Smoke?” We lit up a couple Camels and turned our attention back to the mêlée at hand. At this point, Brutus had Harvey sprinting around the walls of my dorm like he was Achilles pursuing Hector of Troy. “By the way,” J.T. shot me a glance and took a long drag on his cigarette, “Have you looked at the Wikipedia page on chinchillas? Or, like, done any research at all on them?”

            “Not really, I just asked Dennis for some basic tips. I know I’m not supposed to get him wet and stuff.”

            “Who’s Dennis? And––wait, you can’t get him wet? Like in Gremlins?”

            “Dude who works at PetSmart. Great salesman. What’s up with the Wikipedia?” I paused to ash my cigarette. “And yeah, I guess it’s kinda like Gremlins, now that you mention it. Chinchilla fur is so fine that it won’t dry naturally. Crazy stuff.”

            “Anyway,” J.T. responded, clearly still somewhat shook by Brutus’ Wicked-Witch-of-the-West vulnerability, “I was pretty drunk last night and spent some time on Wikipedia, ended up reading about chinchillas.”

            “As one does,” I interjected.

            “Bro, did you know they can live to be, like, 20 years old?” Brutus drove past us in a small chariot, dragging Harvey behind him by the ankles. I whistled.

            “Nineteen more years of this shit?”


To be continued…

Secrets and the Supreme Court: The Strange Case of Justice Hugo Black

Will Fassuliotis ‘19
Guest Columnist

            There are many reasons one may keep a secret. A secret may be innocuous, but rather embarrassing––no need to share it. You may need to keep a secret for the safety of friends or family. A friend may come to you in confidence, seeking advice on a sensitive mater.

Hugo Black in 1937. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Hugo Black in 1937. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

            All of these sorts of secrets are understandable and often even defensible. Some secrets are understandable, but morally less defensible. You might hold a secret for base reasons, that were your secret public, others would fundamentally change their view of you. And with that fundamentally different view, an objective you have long sought (perhaps a job or award) would no longer be obtainable, or, having reached that objective, it is taken from you. As if to demonstrate that these are universal concerns, this series, which began as an allusion to the Ford/Kavanaugh accusations, applies equally well to contemporary events in our Commonwealth. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General are all under the cloud of past actions––some pictured, some alleged, and some admitted––which had they been known, would have altered the course of their political trajectories.

            When Justice Hugo Black retired on September 17, 1971, few were likely thinking of Black’s old secret. Black served thirty-four years on the bench (longer than all but four other justices), so how bad could it have been? Between 1923 and 1925, Hugo Black was a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan.

            That bad.

            When Franklin Roosevelt nominated then-Senator Black (D-Ala.) to the Supreme Court in 1937, his membership was unknown. There had been some rumors, but at the time nothing substantiated. Roosevelt supported Black because Black supported him in the Senate: on the New Deal, on the court-packing scheme, and various other aims, Black was a rare non-conservative Southern Democrat. When Justice Willis Van Devanter, one of the “Four Horsemen” who frustrated Roosevelt, stepped down, the Senator from Alabama seemed an obvious choice. After some discussion of technical constitutional issues surrounding Black’s appointment,[1] Black was easily confirmed, 63–16. With his commission in hand, Black left for vacation in Europe.

            While overseas, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirmed his membership in the KKK, including getting hold of Black’s 1925 resignation letter. Even more damning were the reports of speeches thanking the support of the Klan for their support in his first run for the Senate, as well as accepting a “grand passport” from the KKK, both after he resigned from the group. The author of the Post-Gazette’s reports opined that “the note of resignation was a deliberate ruse, designed to protect the Klan’s political candidate.” Many senators said had they known of his membership in the Klan, they would not have voted for him. Calls for Black’s resignation grew louder. Many wondered what Roosevelt thought. In this era, the Klan was not only anti-Black, but vehemently anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish as well. FDR was no friend of the KKK; he supported Al Smith, a Catholic hated by the Klan for his Catholicism, for President in 1928. But when the news came out, Roosevelt remained silent, waiting to see how Black would defend himself.

            When Black returned from Europe, he decided to address the nation over the radio, “in a way that cannot be misquoted and so the nation can hear it.” On October 1, 1937, he admitted the truth, “I did join the Klan.”[2] But, he continued, “I later resigned. I never rejoined. I completely discontinued any association with the organization…Before becoming a Senator I dropped the Klan. I have had nothing to do with it since that time.” Black emphasized his views, that “I have no sympathy with any group which, anywhere or at any time, arrogates to itself the un-American power to interfere in the slightest with complete religious freedom.”

            After a terrible secret is revealed, the next question is often one of forgiveness. What can a person in a place of public trust do to earn forgiveness? Should forgiveness even be allowed? The people of 1937 forgave Black: prior to his speech, a poll showed 59 percent of Americans believed Black should resign, after his speech, only 44 percent thought he should. In retrospect, we can see his Klan ties did not prejudice him. In his obituary, The New York Times wrote that Black “[made] his mark as a champion of civil rights and liberties,” [3] joining Brown v. Board of Education, and authoring Griffin v. School Board, which effectively ended “Massive Resistance” in Virginia. If the Ku Klux Klan was hoping Black was one of them, they were sorely mistaken. Of course, it is much easier to forgive looking back than it is at the time. 

            At least one more secret would surround Justice Black’s vacated seat. Most accounts say President Nixon wanted to ask Representative Richard H. Poff (R-Va.) to fill Black’s seat. Poff’s son was adopted, and the son did not yet know that. Poff was not yet ready to tell his son and was concerned that reporters would find out about the adoption and publicize the fact. In order to protect his son, Poff preemptively declined any nomination. Instead, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. was nominated and confirmed to Black’s seat. The benefits of Poff’s sacrifice were short-lived, however, when a reporter publicly revealed the adoption anyway.[4]

            While not quite on par with Aesop’s Fables, a story like this must have a moral. This author suggests: “Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.”[5] But if this is too abstract, remember, “Three may keep a Secret, if two of them are dead.”[6]

[1] For the story of why Black was nominated to the Supreme Court, as well as a discussion of the constitutional issues, see American Heritage’s “Hugo Black and the K.K.K.,” available at <>.

[2] The speech is available on YouTube, entitled “Supreme Court Clips: Hugo Black's 1937 radio address about KKK membership,” at <>.

[3] “Justice Black Dies at 85; Served on Court 34 Years,” September 25, 1971. The obituary includes Black’s reason for joining the Klan, as explained decades after the fact. At the time, Black was a trial lawyer. Opposing counsels as well as jurors were all members of the Klan, so, ostensibly, joining was a way to even the odds at trial.

[4] Poff was a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law; thus, this sequence of events robbed this Law School of a second justice to sit upon the Supreme Court.

[5] Sophocles, Hipponous, fragment 280.

[6] Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack.

State of the Union: Good, Bad, Ugly

Raphael Cho ‘21
Staff Editor

Rhetoric: 2/5

Entertainment Value: 3/5

Meme[1]-ability: 4/5

Average: 3/5


            After tumultuous midterms and a government shutdown, President Trump delivered his State of the Union Address to the 116th Congress last week. In his address to the nation, the President called for cooperation and compromise to overcome partisanship and petty squabbles. President Trump also highlighted the success of his economic and international policies. Overall, I gave the 2019 SOTU a 3/5. The President scored a lot of points on meme-ability and entertainment value, but the substance and rhetoric of his address were subpar according to my arbitrary criteria. Below are some musings on the SOTU. Enjoy.


The Good

            One of the President’s central messages was overcoming the challenges of partisan politics. While many Congress-people visibly rolled their eyes, the President did deliver a moment of bipartisan applause when he celebrated the record number of Congresswomen in attendance. The most iconic, and meme-able, moment of the SOTU also occurred at this point with Nancy Pelosi’s literal clap back.

            On a non-political note, the video directors of the SOTU have to be given some credit. The high entertainment value score, in fact, is largely attributable to the directors. If you’re not going to pan to Bernie Sanders’ perturbed face while President Trump marshals his forces against the red menace of socialism, why even televise the SOTU? Without the video directors, we would never get classic moments like President Trump disparaging military planning in Afghanistan while his top generals visibly think, “Bruh, not cool.”

            President Trump also claimed that his economic policies have led to the lowest unemployment rates for minorities, reduced taxes for the middle class and increased business confidence. While I can’t and won’t speak to the accuracy of these claims, I did note that President Trump omitted his greatest economic contribution: bolstering the meme economy to levels unseen. Some might argue that current status of the meme economy was a product of the Obama administration and that a rising tide lifts all boats. However, President Trump is the equivalent of a one-man stimulus package and few can dispute his personal contributions to said meme e-conomy.


The Bad

            In an odd moment, President Trump claimed, “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would, right now, be in a major war with North Korea.” While I admit that my information on the subject is infinitesimally small compared to the Commander-in-Chief’s, the President’s hypothetical seems as unrealistic, pandering, and unnecessary as the hypotheticals posed by gunners a minute before the end of class.  

            President Trump also posited that the only things that could stop the “economic miracle” happening in the United States were “politics or ridiculous partisan investigations.” The President’s statement undoubtedly gave the geriatric members of Congress flashbacks to Tricky Dick Nixon’s final SOTU. Although unconfirmed, some claim to have heard Alaska Representative Don Young (R-Geriatric) say, “Haven’t we seen this one already?”

            On a more serious note, I found the rhetoric of the President’s address to be subpar, not (only) because of my own bias, but because of the ham-fisted nature of his rhetoric. What happened to subtlety and innuendo? If I’m going to be told what to think, I’d rather believe I’m getting there myself. For example, repeatedly calling the Mexico–U.S. border “our very dangerous southern border” is like using a howitzer to deliver a flu shot. Maybe I’m just too young to realize that’s how it’s always been, but all in all, Demosthenes would not be proud of the President.


The Ugly

            To be honest, I only included this section to mention Mitch McConnell’s 1/3 inch, blue and white, pinstripe shirt coupled with his hot pink tie. I don’t know what’s more of a mismatch, Mitch McConnell’s shirt and tie or Mitch McConnell and AOC working on a bill together. Either way, the end product is hurtful to the eyes and should not be allowed on the floor.


            Bearded Ted Cruz also gets an honorable mention. I personally think he looks better with the beard, but nothing says, “I will never be President,” like growing a beard after barely being reelected. Then again, Beto also seems to be growing a beard, so maybe Senator Cruz just wants to be barely better than Beto at another thing.


             The State of the Union Address following the midterms often signals the policy agenda for the remainder of the President’s term. Generally speaking, President Trump’s agenda for the next year seems to be a mixed bag of old causes and enemies. Some of those policies we will be seeing in the near future are: stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, building a “physical barrier . . . or wall,” fighting socialism, reducing the price of prescription drugs, and watching Kim Jong Un honeypot our Government.

[1] For our less internet savvy readers, a meme is: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

"Aren't the Mediocre Entitled to a Little Representation?" Nixon's Failed Supreme Court Nominees

Will Fassuliotis ‘19
Guest Columnist

On May 23, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon must have felt pretty good. It was on that day that he submitted his nomination to the Senate for the new Chief Justice of the United States. On a personal level, his new nominee would remove his longtime rival and bitter foe, Earl Warren, from the national level. The soon-to-be-former Chief Justice once had presidential ambitions, which Nixon had helped thwart. Now, Nixon had risen to that role. On the political and legal level, he was fulfilling his campaign promise to promote law and order—Nixon ran in no small part against what he perceived to be the excesses of the Warren Court.

            In his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination, Nixon identified the source of the surge in crime—and there was undoubtedly a great increase in crime at this period—as a result of the judiciary having “gone too far in weakening the peace forces as against the criminal forces . . . . Let those who have the responsibility to interpret [our laws],” he continued, “be dedicated to the great principles of civil rights. But let them also recognize”—invoking FDR’s Four Freedoms—“that the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence and that right must be guaranteed in this country.” In choosing as Chief Justice D.C. Circuit Judge Warren E. Burger, a prominent critic of the Warren Court from Minnesota, Nixon thought he had his man to restore balance between the “peace forces” and the “criminal forces.”

            Burger’s nomination easily sailed through the Senate. Barely criticized, Burger would be confirmed by the Senate seventy-four to three, a mere eleven days after nomination. His confirmation would stand in stark contrast to the battles that preceded him and kept the Chief Justice spot open, and the battles to come to try to fill the second vacancy.

            For his second nominee, Nixon sought “a white southern conservative federal judge under age sixty.”[1] Having already won much of the peripheral South, Nixon hope that nominating a Southerner to the Court would help him in the Deep South, as well as heading off a potential Dixiecrat third-party spoiler in the next election, which he had suffered in the form of Alabama Governor George Wallace of Alabama in 1968. With these requirements in mind, Nixon nominated South Carolina Judge Clement Haynsworth of the Fourth Circuit.

            Unlike Burger, Haynsworth faced immediate and sustained opposition. Opponents emphasized three deficiencies. The first was in the area of civil rights. Haynsworth’s record was not particularly good; He had joined a public-school desegregation opinion that was unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court. Other opinions led civil rights leaders to opine that at best Haynsworth was unlikely to support desegregation efforts once on the Supreme Court, and at worst out-right supported segregation, and so they urged the Senate to oppose. The second source came from organized labor, who claimed that seven of his antiunion opinions had been reversed.           Ironically, the third well of opposition was in the same vein of problems that brought Justice Fortas down: money. Haynsworth had sat in at least one case where he had a financial interest. After Fortas, many Senators were wary of putting a man on the Court who even hinted at an appearance of impropriety.

            Haynsworth was rejected, forty-five to fifty-five. As the Democrats controlled the Senate fifty-seven to forty-three, this might not seem so odd. But this was not a party-line vote. Nixon’s nominee was defeated by a mirror image of the forces that defeated Fortas. Recall that Fortas was defeated by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats; Haynsworth was vanquished by a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans. Seventeen Republican Senators—nearly 40 percent of the Republican caucus—broke ranks to oppose their Republican president.

            Nixon took the defeat personally. Recent history has exposed a deep fault-line about when a Senate should confirm or reject a nominee. Ideology? Basic competency? Pure politics? Nixon rejected all of these views: Appointments were “the constitutional responsibility of the president,” and he did not believe that individual Senators could “frustrate” that responsibility. To a certain extent, Nixon had a point. For the first time in thirty-nine years, a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court was rejected.[2] Before that, a historian would have to go all the way back to 1894, when the Senate rejected President Cleveland’s choice.[3] Not only was opposition rare, most judges were confirmed unanimously. That era no longer existed. Rather than change course, Nixon doubled down.

            Nixon’s next nominee was Judge G. Harrold Carswell of the Fifth Circuit. Another “strict constructionist” Southerner, Carswell’s fate would be no better than Haynsworth’s. Carswell faced opposition for past stances on civil rights.[4] While running for local political office in 1948, he made remarks explicitly in favor of segregation. While a judge, his opinions seemed written to delay desegregation rather than promote it.

            But it was not this that ensured his defeat. Carswell had a reputation for being an intellectual lightweight bordering on incompetence. In perhaps the greatest own-goal backfire, Republican Senator Hruska of Nebraska had this to say in support: “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.” With supporters like these . . .

            The Senate rejected Carswell, forty-five to fifty-one. Republicans, again broke rank—thirteen of forty-one voting Republicans, over 30 percent, again voted against their President’s nominee. Ironically, Fortas, Haynsworth, and Carswell all received forty-five votes in support. Enraged, Nixon publicly denounced his opponents for refusing to allow a Southerner to be on the Supreme Court. Nixon turned to Judge Harry Blackmun of the Eighth Circuit. Burger had suggested Blackmun to the administration. The Chief Justice had strong ties to Blackmun—they went to the same elementary school—and Burger was even the best man at Blackmun’s wedding. The suggestion was a good one, in that Blackmun was confirmed ninety-four to zero.[5]

But for strict constructionists and judicial conservatives, the choice was ultimately disappointing. The “Minnesota Twins”—Burger and Blackmun—would grow personally and judicially distant on the bench, as Blackmun became one of the most liberal justices on the Court during his tenure. And though we do not know how a Justice Haynsworth or Justice Carswell would have been on the Court, I feel safe in saying that their opponents succeeded in preserving the legacy of the Warren Court, in no small part, because it was Justice Blackmun who sat on the court instead.

            Next time, Hugo Black’s retirement lets us ponder: When does a secret bring prevent someone from becoming a Justice?


[1] A useful book on this topic, from which I got this quote, is Kevin J. McMahon’s Nixon’s Court.

[2] In 1930, the Senate rejected President Hoover’s choice of Judge John Parker, also of the Fourth Circuit, thirty-nine to forty-one. Formally, Fortas was filibustered, and so he was never technically rejected. Instead, his nomination lapsed at the conclusion of the Congressional term.

[3] Wheeler Hazard Peckham was defeated 32-41. Cleveland would later successfully appoint Peckham’s brother, Rufus Wheeler Peckham.

[4] A major difference between today and the past was that nominees were largely unscrutinized by those who appointed them. While current events show that no one catches everything, some of these misses, if I may editorialize, are malpractice.

[5] Like Haynsworth, Blackmun also had sat on cases where had a financial interest in the outcome. Unlike Haynsworth, no one used this as reason to vote against Blackmun.

ANG's Guide to 1L Firm Receptions

Taylor Elicegui ‘19
Features Editor

I recently sat down with UVA Law’s favorite all-knowing cretin ANG, under ANG’s favorite bleachers at the softball field, because ANG had a message ANG wanted to make sure the community heard. As law firm reception season starts up, ANG wants to make sure the 1Ls are ready to win friends and influence partners to get that bread. The conversation was a little tricky—it can be hard to distinguish ANG’s excited grunts from ANG’s angry grunts—but I did the best I could to reprint the substance for you here. If, for whatever reason, you’re wary about taking ANG’s advice about receptions, see my italicized commentary below ANG’s nuggets of wisdom.


1.     Make sure you dress for success. ANG knows that if you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you can do a better job of convincing partners that your C+ in Contracts is not indicative of your overall intelligence. ANG recommends a new trash bag or maybe a new Busch Light box as a hat. ANG knows that is what always makes ANG feel ANG’s best.


In all seriousness, law firm business casual is more formal than I originally expected. Don’t wear a suit, but it’s not a bad idea to go a little more formal than you might initially think.


2.     Find at least seven of your sectionmates and carpool. Social interaction can sometimes be a little weird for ANG. To make receptions go as smoothly as possible, ANG finds at least seven of ANG’s sectionmates and goes with them to the reception. ANG’s general life motto is “No New Friends” so ANG wants to make sure ANG doesn’t interact with anyone for the first time.


Go with a friend or two, but make sure you branch out and talk to others. Law firm

receptions can be a good time to get to know some of your other classmates. The goal,

though, is to learn more about the firm and the different types of law you may be

interested in. The best way to do that is talking with the attorneys and learning about

their work.


3.     Keep your hands full at all times. ANG knows there’s nothing worse than having to engage in the social niceties of “shaking hands” and “looking people in the eye” during flu season. To avoid this problem, ANG suggests keeping your hands full at all times. ANG’s go-to is a glass of wine in each hand—one red and one white if ANG is feeling playful and wants to mix things up. If that’s not your thing, ANG recommends having two little plates piled high with appetizers. You won’t have any hands available to put the food into your mouth, so ANG avoids the caprese skewers and sticks to things ANG can eat straight off the plate.


Don’t have a drink and plate at the same time. If you want some snacks, grab a snack plate and napkin, and eat some snacks with your peers before beginning your networking interactions. Make sure you always have a hand available to shake.


4.     Get as drunk as possible. ANG talks with law firms a lot—they all want to hire ANG. So ANG has it on good authority that law firms want you to get as drunk as you possibly can so they can assess how you will fit in at the firm’s annual holiday party. ANG likes to start with beer and then switch to liquor. ANG has found that really allows ANG to shine.


Don’t have more than two drinks. One is even better. This is not a party and you should not be visibly tipsy in any way.


5.     Pick at least one lawyer and talk to them. Once you’re tired of talking to the nineteen sectionmates you arrived with, it’s time to do what you’re really there for: talk to a lawyer. ANG likes to pick a lawyer who’s engaged in a conversation with at least six other people and barge in. Once in the group, ANG thinks it’s important to cover all the major conversation topics to show the lawyer how good you are at social interaction. Make sure to tell the lawyer who you voted for, ask who they voted for, share your thoughts on religion, and ask about money. Don’t let anyone other than the lawyer talk, though. You want to make sure the lawyer knows you are the top dog at school. Law firms aren’t looking to hire anyone else. So assert your dominance over your peers by cutting them off every time they try to speak.


Use this opportunity to ask about the lawyer’s work and find out more about the firm’s personality. A lawyer once suggested I ask how they would describe the firm in three adjectives, which I thought was a good question and helped me differentiate between firms. Make sure you don’t dominate the conversation and give your peers the same opportunity to ask questions and talk).


6.     Follow up if you have a good conversation. ANG continues to differentiate ANG from ANG’s peers by sending at least twelve follow-up emails to everyone ANG speaks to. Recruiter, waiters, bartenders, all the lawyers ANG made eye contact with. Tell them about your family vacation, most recent Con Law reading, and the Taco Bell you had for dinner. ANG finds that sending emails allows ANG to make meaningful connections.


Send a follow-up email only if you make a good connection or have an unusually good conversation. Keep it short and make sure it’s very polite. Lawyers are busy people, so don’t take up more of their time.


Between Tectonic Plates: Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure

Grace Tang ‘21
Staff Editor

My hands were numb and shaking as I descended into the freezing waters of the Silfra fissure in my dry suit and gear. It was unclear whether the shaking was due to excitement, dread, or the sheer cold, as my foggy brain was still reeling from only three hours of sleep after arriving in Reykjavik that morning.

Going on a trip to Iceland in the middle of January seemed like a great plan during August when I was booking plane tickets in the midst of sunshine and great weather. Now, as I descended into the crystal-clear waters of mid-winter in Iceland, I wasn’t so sure. When I lifted my head above the water, all I could see were snow-covered tundra and cliffs on either side, with impressively sized icicles dangling off the edges.

Astoundingly, the cold, gray landscape above the water was transformed into a dazzling, colorful new world as soon as my head descended beneath the surface. The waters in Silfra are likely the purest on earth. They originate from local glaciers which are filtered through porous rock, and clean enough to drink while snorkeling. The colorless waters also greatly improved visibility and it was possible to see almost 100 feet beneath me as I swam.

Though no wildlife inhabits the Silfra fissure, the snorkel was not boring by any means. The geology of the craggy bare-rock walls, bright green algae, and vibrant blues and greens of the water are beautiful and awe-inspiring. Some portions of the fissure are narrow and shallow while other areas widened and deepened unexpectedly hundreds of feet below. The trip ended when we veered left and the waters opened up into a blue sandy lagoon. I couldn’t stop looking around in wonder at everything as I floated by, fascinated by the incredible scenery. It was a very different experience from a normal snorkel, without the typical tropical fish and sea life. Rather, the beauty of the land itself was the main attraction. Because the heavy dry–suits were cumbersome and the water was so cold, the 300 foot swim was much more tiring than I had anticipated. Thirty minutes later, I was quite happy to be sipping hot chocolate on a tour bus.

Located on the famous golden circle route at Thingvellir National Park, I highly recommend the Silfra snorkel any able-bodied swimmer. The Silfra fissure is located between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. The glacial water is the clearest in the world, and at its narrowest portion, it is possible to almost touch the two continental plates on either side. The tour is available year-round; however, there is one catch for this extraordinary opportunity. Whether you go on the tour in the high of summer or mid-winter like me, the temperature of the water remains steady at approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit as the waters originate from a glacier. Despite the cold, snorkeling in Iceland is definitely an adventure one should experience at least once in their life.