There is a consensus about Chief Justice John Roberts' historic speech at the Jackson Center amongst local barristers: it was perfectly delivered.
All three branches of government were well represented Friday morning, as lawyers, judges, senators, assemblymen, council members, and at least one mayor contributed to the enormous crowd which gathered to listen to Roberts. And while most political parties were represented at the gathering as well, only the highest praise was given to Roberts' speech, regardless of affiliation.
"It's an enormous honor to have the chief justice of the United States here in Chautauqua County," said the Hon. Stephen W. Cass. "There has only been 16 chief justices of the United States Supreme Court, and the fact that we're allowed to see him in person is incredible. As far as his presentation, I found him to be charming, articulate, incredibly intelligent, and I really enjoyed his demeanor - he's just got so much charisma. He talked about how the justices of the United States Supreme Court have changed, and now they have some type of practical experience before they take the bench. He continues to stress the practical experience and the importance that every day life brings to the judiciary. To me, what makes him so incredible above all of his other attributes is his practicality."
Cass serves as judge for the Chautauqua County Surrogate's Court. He has served in this position since 2000 and was re-elected in 2009 to a new 10-year term that ends in 2020. He received his B.A. degree from Allegheny College in 1985 and his J.D. degree from Albany Law School in 1988.
"I think Jamestown is really honored to have Chief Justice Roberts here," said Dale Robbins, local attorney. "It's absolutely incredible that we've had two chief justices of the Supreme Court here. I attribute all that to not only Robert Jackson but also Greg Peterson. Jamestown is so lucky to have an organization which is able to bring such intellectual capital to Jamestown."
Robbins also had plenty of compliments to hand to Roberts for his address.
"Roberts was absolutely fantastic," said Robbins. "He went through a wonderful chronicle of Jackson's life, a wonderful chronicle of what the Supreme Court is like and gave us an opportunity to get some insight that we wouldn't have had otherwise. I'm really thrilled that he was in Jamestown."
Likewise, attorney Fred Larson complimented Roberts on his intimate knowledge of the life and times of Robert H. Jackson.
"It's a tribute to the importance of Jackson that the chief justice of the United States took the time to come here today to commemorate Jackson, just as it was almost 10 years ago to the day when then Chief Justice William Rehnquist took time to come here," said Larson. "The connection between Jackson, even though he died in 1954 - Rehnquist had been a law clerk at the Supreme Court for Jackson, and Roberts, it turns out, was a law clerk for Rehnquist at the Supreme Court. There is a strong historical connection between Chief Justice Roberts and Jackson. This (visit) validates the Jackson Center itself, as well as its mission in promoting Justice Jackson's writings and his lifetime support of individual liberty and freedom. Before Jackson, there had never been an international war crimes trial, despite the hundreds of years of war, until Robert H. Jackson basically invented it in Nuremberg. Jackson was the driving force behind having a trial that would build a record of evidence that would stand the test of generation, when Churchill and Stalin believed it was good enough to round up the elite Nazi officials and shoot them. Chief Justice Roberts made mention of the importance of what Jackson did in making sure that there was a genuine trial for the Nazis. It's a wonderful thing for Jamestown that we have the Jackson Center, and in the years to come, I'm sure that Supreme Court Justices will continue to find it valuable to come here and honor Jackson."
Ultimately, guests of the Jackson Center who were also in attendance for Chief Justice Rehnquist's visit in 2003 couldn't help but draw connections between the two addresses. No one specifically said which was better, however the Hon. Judith S. Claire enjoyed Roberts' address more, simply because the weather cooperated superbly for Roberts, unlike Rehnquist's visit.
"I just kept chuckling when I thought about it, but today is just a perfect day," said the Hon. Claire. "There was a person sitting in front of me who referred to the event as a piece of Americana, and I couldn't help but agree. And Chief Justice Roberts' speech made the day even better. He is so genuine, unassuming, modest and not at all pompous. Justice Roberts has a particular intellect which is very thoughtful and insightful - he only makes two or three public appearances all year, so for him to have picked Chautauqua County as a visit is huge. All of the justices make only a few visits a year, and some of them choose to only visit abroad. Roberts does his visits in the United States, and he picked to do one here, which shows he recognizes the significance of the Jackson Center. This visit was not hoaky - it was genuine and powerful. He had said during dinner last night that he looks to Jackson for inspiration, so the bust he was presented with (of Jackson) is particularly appropriate."
The Hon. Claire wasn't sure what to say next about Roberts and his speech that would do them justice.
"I don't know - he's the chief CEO, so to speak, of our world," said Claire. "There can be no higher honor than that. To have a chance to hear him talk and be so unassuming about it - to feel that he is touched by our community's' reaction when so many people would simply see it as an obligation which needs to be fulfilled is wonderful. I think everyone here is honored to have been a part of this event today."