Last month we reported on the death of Frank Lorson, who served as the Chief Deputy Clerk at the Supreme Court for over twenty years.  Thanks to the Court, we have obtained a copy of the remarks made at Lorson’s memorial service by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The remarks (in full) follow the jump.

In memory of Francis J. Lorson

January 17, 2013

          When good men die, their goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone.  And so it shall be of Frank Lorson, for he was the very best of humankind, the most dedicated, the least self-regarding.

For three decades, Frank served the Court with intelligence and grace, first as assistant clerk, then deputy clerk, and from 1981 until his retirement in 2002, as chief deputy clerk.  His tenure covers volumes 405 through 536 of the United States Reports.  From Justice Stevens in 1975 through Justice Breyer in 1994, he escorted each new Justice into the Courtroom for the investiture ceremony.

The morning of my first argument at the Court, in January 1973, as instructed, I checked in at Frank’s office, and did so five times thereafter in the 1970s.  Apprehensive as I was, Frank’s greeting and reassuring smile helped me to comprehend that I was neither dreaming nor caught in a nightmare, but just where I needed to be.  With Frank around, I was never at a loss about what to file when, and in the correct form.  He was always there, in person or by phone, to answer my questions.  Legions of lawyers have had that experience.  As Ted Olson, then Solicitor General, said when Frank’s retirement was announced: “Frank Lorson has been a treasure to the Court and everyone who practices there.”  Another repeat performer, Patricia Millett, captured Frank’s persona.  He combined, she said, professionalism of the highest order, with kindness and understanding for the difficulties lawyers confront.

Frank and I shared an interest in how law and courts operate elsewhere.  He took part in several exchanges with, and workshops for, judges in other lands.  Reminiscent of his youth as a Vista volunteer, Frank did not go to the world’s great garden spots.  Instead, he helped newly installed constitutional courts in such nations as Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Latvia, Azerbaijan, and Serbia.

Frank’s devotion to the Supreme Court of the United States continued long after his retirement.  Every now and then, he was in attendance at oral argument or a Supreme Court Historical Society event.  A true labor of love, in 2004, he collaborated with Linda Greenhouse in sifting through Justice Blackmun’s huge archive of papers lodged at the Library of Congress.

Frank regularly wrote to express his appreciation for Music at the Court, recitals held in our East Conference Room twice a year.  A typical note: “During these days of chaos and turmoil in our world, what a civilized way to spend an afternoon in May.”

A note from Frank I prize above all was hand delivered to chambers in November 2004:

Five years have now passed since you

were diagnosed and began your treatments.

This is just a note of hope that the doctors have

given you a clean bill of health.

They had.  The diagnosis to which Frank referred was colorectal cancer, a dread disease he suffered the year before I did.  In the darkest days of that diagnosis for me, Frank was my sympathique guide.  He told me in successive stages what to expect in the immediate weeks ahead.  And when bad things happened, they were less frightening because I was well prepared.  Frank even gave me from his medicine cabinet alleviating items that had worked for him.  When I told Frank I was indeed restored to good health, he replied:

We have both made it with the help of

family, good friends, fine physicians — and

our own determination.  Stubbornness is at

times a virtue!

In a eulogy to a person dear to him, Frank wrote some years ago:  The number of years one lives is not all that important.  “Rather, the Bible tells us it is the quality of the person’s life — living a good life is what counts.”  By that measure, Frank’s life counts enormously.

Posted in Everything Else

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Justice Ginsburg’s remarks from Frank Lorson’s memorial service, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 5, 2013, 12:51 PM),