Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quote: Why the Handshake Never Caught On

[There is a] tradition in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where at the end of oral argument the judges come down from the bench and shake hands with the lawyers.  It is a very endearing custom emblematic of the grace and hospitality of the region encompassed by the Fourth Circuit.

Things are different in the District of Columbia Circuit. . . . There is a famous episode from the early nineteenth century involving Judge Buckner Thruston, who was in the habit of finding the lawyers appearing before him deficient in many respects, and in the habit of giving voice to that view.  On one occasion, a lawyer responded in kind, letting Judge Thruston know that he, the lawyer, found the Judge equally deficient.  The Evening Star explained what happened next: "Judge Thruston's reaction was to hustle down from the bench and berate his critic as 'a scoundrel and poltroon,' whom he challenged to step 'outside and fight.'"  Perhaps those sorts of beginnings explain why the tradition never really caught hold in D.C. as it has in Richmond.

John G. Roberts, Jr., What Makes the D.C. Circuit Different?  A Historical View, 92 Va. L. Rev. 375, 375-76 (2006) (footnote omitted).