The University of Texas School of Law will host a conference on judicial biography and the Supreme Court on Friday, Jan. 29, in memory of Professor Roy M. Mersky, the longtime director of the Tarlton Law Library and Jamail Center for Legal Research and Harry M. Reasoner Regents Chair in Law, who died in May 2008.
Prominent history and legal scholars-most of whom have written biographies about Supreme Court justices-will participate in discussions about great lawyers who were appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, justices who would have merited a biography even if never appointed to the Court, international jurists who served on the Supreme Courts of Australia, Canada and Israel, and the writing of Supreme Court history.
Speakers include Benjamin N. Cardozo biographer Andrew L. Kaufman. University of Texas at Austin professors H.W. Brands and David Oshinsky are among the moderators. A list of conference speakers and the schedule can be found on the Conference on Judicial Biography and the Supreme Court Web site.
The event, free and open to the public, will be held in the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom, beginning at 9 a.m., Friday with a welcome and introduction by Law School Dean Larry Sager and Terry Martin, interim director of the Tarlton Law Library and the Jamail Center for Legal Research and a visiting professor of law.
UT Law Professors Sanford Levinson and Lucas A. (Scot) Powe Jr., also a panelist, originally organized the conference as a tribute, not as a memorial, to Mersky. His interest in judicial biography and particularly in the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States was longstanding.
Levinson and Powe recalled that when they approached Mersky in March 2008 (a few weeks before his death) to propose the idea for a symposium on judicial biography in his honor, Mersky’s first comment was “I’m not retiring.” Mersky was delighted at the idea of the symposium, but made it clear to his two colleagues that he had no intention of retiring or otherwise leaving the institution he loved. Levinson said he and Powe assured him the symposium would only serve as “a marker of his continuous service.” Mersky died a few weeks later at the age of 82.
Mersky served 42 years as director of the Tarlton Law Library. Generations of law students knew him as the coauthor (with J. Myron Jacobstein) of one of the classic legal research texts, Fundamentals of Legal Research, first published in 1975. From his many accreditation visits and law library consultancies, generations of deans knew him as a source of information about library administration and talent. He was a mentor to a host of law school directors throughout the country.
Mersky’s first law library position was at the University of Wisconsin Law Library, working as U.S. government documents cataloger in the early 1950s. He was director of the Washington State Law Library and professor of law and law librarian at the University of Colorado before his University of Texas at Austin appointment.