A Case for Doctrinal Development

John T. Noonan: jurist, historian, author, sage

From his own desk, law clerk Samir Bukhari can’t see John T. Noonan Jr. at work. Yet each day, through the wall, he hears what Bukhari calls the "ripping pages," a quiet, metronomic hum as Judge Noonan tears prose-filled sheet after prose-filled sheet from a yellow legal pad. (When informed of this fact, Noonan dryly asks "What else does he hear?")

During the past half-century Noonan’s pages have been transformed into dozens of scholarly articles, hundreds of legal opinions, and a string of major books ranging from a treatise on bribery to the definitive work on the history of contraception. As recently as two years ago, he published The Lustre of Our Country (University of California), an examination of religious freedom in the United States and around the world. Noonan’s fluency in history and philosophy and his shrewd eye for the telling anecdote make these publications unusually engaging. He rarely overlooks the "small and important details," explains Valparaiso University law professor Edward McGlynn Gaffney, who asks "How many other scholars can write a several-hundred-page book, with every page readable?" At age seventy-three, showing no sign of diminished energy, Noonan lectures across the country even as he hears cases as a senior judge on a court ranking just below the U.S. Supreme Court in importance, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Productivity and brilliance are an intoxicating...

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About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.