Justice Thomas E. Brennan Farewell Remarks At The Conclusion Of Court

December 6, 1973

 CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: The Court takes notice of the fact that at the conclusion of these proceedings this morning one of our members will have completed his service— seven years of service on the Court— and that he will be with us and continuing to serve until the end of the month, but this will be the last time that he will appear in open court. And, as I seem to remember from my school days, when one of the important persons connected with the school had a birth date or an anniversary or some other particular celebration, that invariably, the students were called into a conclave and he took the opportunity of addressing them. Ordinarily, we ended up, under those circumstances, with having what we called a free day. I note the presence of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School students here, and I take notice of the request that Justice BRENNAN has just made to me that at the conclusion of these proceedings, he would like to say a word, so, I assumed, you can expect that some reward is coming your way. Justice BRENNAN.

 JUSTICE THOMAS E. BRENNAN: Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court, I may say that the free day has already been given. As you see, the students are present in the courtroom today. I may say that the free day has spilled over, beyond the Cooley Law School, to both East Lansing High School and St. Thomas Aquinas Grammar School, because there are two other students who have seized upon the occasion to take a free day as well. I’m delighted that some members of my family are able to be here with me today.

You know, it is the practice in the law, that when a judge assumes the Bench, there is a kind of ceremony, which is called a “swearing-in” ceremony. I have never heard of a “swearing-out” ceremony; yet, it does seem to me that after 7 years on this Court and 12 years on the Bench that I ought, at least, to have something to say on the last occasion when I wear the robe. So, if I may ask my secretary, Miss Mariann Farhat, who is in the courtroom, to assist me, I would like to resume the position that I was in on the 28th of December, 1961, when I first put on a black robe, and take a moment to do that before I address my remarks to the Court. So, if Miss Farhat will step forward please.

(Whereupon, Justice BRENNAN rose from his seat on the Bench, and approaching the lectern, removed his robe and handed it to Miss Farhat. He then addressed the Court as follows:)

In search of something proper to say to the Court today, I found a few words addressed some hundred years ago by Jefferson Davis to the members of the United States Senate. And so, without attempting to embellish upon them, I will put these words on the record and adopt them as my own for this occasion. It was about the end of February, 1861; the Confederacy had been formed; Mr. Davis was then a member of the United States Senate and he was giving his farewell address to the members of the Senate and he said in conclusion: “In the course of my service here, associated at different times with a great variety of Senators, I see now around me some with whom I have served long; there have
been points of collision, but, whatever offense there has been to me, I leave here. I carry with me no hostile remembrance. Whatever offense I have given which has not been redressed, or for which satisfaction has not been demanded, I have, Senators, [and I have, Justices] in this hour of our parting, to offer you my apology for any pain, which, in the heat of discussion, I have inflicted. I go hence unencumbered by the remembrance of any injury received, and having discharged the duty of making the only reparation in my power for any injury offered.”

So, Mr. Chief Justice and Justices, as Mr. Davis said, “Mr. President and Senators, having made the announcement which the occasion seemed to me to require, it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu.”

JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Mr. BRENNAN, before you leave, is this a notice that you are seceding rather than retiring?

JUSTICE THOMAS E. BRENNAN: I hope with better success than Davis had.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: I would like to conclude by saying that on behalf of the Court and the Justices thereof that, Justice BRENNAN, we extend to you our best wishes and we hope that you will have a very successful time as Dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. I am sure that all of us are equally contrite with respect to any embarrassments we may have occasioned to you during the course of the past seven years. I being the one that served with you the longest and perhaps the one most often disagreeing with you, I can say that for those times we ruffed your feathers I apologize for myself and other members of the Court, and with that, the Court will recess.