Harvard Law Review Forum
Provocation: Frank’s Way
Responding to In Tribute: Frank I. Michelman, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 879 (2012)
I know that Dean Martha Minow would like me to begin with a provocation, but I can’t help beginning instead with an acknowledgment. Throughout my career as a legal academic, I have always had two guiding lights, two pole stars whose integrity and depth I have trusted to steer me in the right direction. One is Owen Fiss, and the other is Frank Michelman.
No one would ever confuse these two scholars. Owen’s style is divisive and pugnacious. His MO is to enter a controversy, the way that Clint Eastwood might enter a saloon, clarify the dispute, and adopt a position. Whether you agree or disagree, you are guaranteed to come away with a better sense of the stakes in question.
Frank’s style, by contrast, is anything but swaggering. Frank is empathetic, polite, generous (almost to a fault), indirect, and tentative. His archetypical article worries a question. And when I say worries, I mean the way that a terrier might worry a rat — by turning it over every which way, by attacking it from every possible angle, and by tasting its every implication. In the end Frank may (or as likely may not) reach some provisional conclusions. But in the process the reader will certainly have reaped rich rewards, for he will have experienced how a deep scholarly mind, exercising perfect scholarly integrity, illuminates depths hitherto unseen and unimagined. He will have been inspired by the gift of insight. Frank’s writings offer wisdom in the service of a passionate fidelity to the intractable complexity of legal issues.