Touro Law Review
My encounters with Charles Reich began long before I had any personal contact with him. I read his 1970 bestseller The Greening of America late in that decade, when I was in high school. From then on, I always owned a copy of that book, until it would disappear in a move or on "loan" to some friend.
Luckily so many copies of Greening are in print that I easily would find it anew in used bookstores. So, I often restocked, reread in the book, and got to feel afresh the lift of Reich's spirit and his words.
Consider, for example, the book's closing paragraphs, which will enchant me always:
We have all known the loneliness, the emptiness, the plastic isolation of contemporary America. Our forebears came thousands of miles for the promise of a better life. Now there is a new promise. Shall we not seize it? Shall we not be pioneers once more, since luck and fortune have given us a vision of hope? The extraordinary thing about this new consciousness is that it has emerged out of the wasteland of the Corporate State, like flowers pushing up through the concrete pavement. Whatever it touches it beautifies and renews: a freeway entrance is festooned with happy hitchhikers, the sidewalk is decorated with street people, the humorless steps of an official building are given warmth by a group of musicians. And every barrier falls before it. ... We have all been induced to give up our dreams of adventure and romance in favor of the escalator of success, but it says that the escalator is a sham and the dream is real. And these things, buried, hidden, and disowned in so many of us, are shouted out loud, believed in, affirmed by a growing multitude of young people who seem too healthy, intelligent, and alive to be wholly insane, who appear, in their collective strength, capable of making it happen. For one almost convinced that it was necessary to accept ugliness and evil, that it was necessary to be a miser of dreams, it is an invitation to cry or laugh. For one who thought the world was irretrievably encased in metal and plastic and sterile stone, it seems a veritable greening of America.
When I became a law professor, I began to understand Charles Reich's brilliance as a law thinker, teacher, and scholar. On someone's recommendation, I read a number of the "greatest" law review articles. The first of them, deserving of that ranking, was Charles Reich's The New Property.
In 2002, I contacted Charles Reich. I was researching and writing, for a Yale Law School conference, an article on Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., for whom I had the great fortune to be a law clerk. Leon and Charles had been classmates in the Yale Law School class of 1952. John P. Frank was one of their professors. I was writing about how Professor Frank, once a law clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black, had taken Leon Higginbotham, one of the few African-American students then at Yale, to the Supreme Court in April 1950 to hear the oral arguments in Sweatt v. Painter. Two months later, the Court held unanimously in that case that it was unconstitutional for the state of Texas to bar a Black man, based on his race, from attending the University of Texas Law School. I called Charles in San Francisco to ask about Leon, John Frank, that Washington trip, and Yale Law School in those days. That began my friendship with Charles.