Blog Archives

Howard Brodie Remembered

Blackmun  Howard Brodie, one of the greatest sketch artists ever, has passed away at age 94. He was generous, gentle and honest.

I met Howard when I was trying to land a job with CBS News in Washington. He was their regular artist, had covered the Watergate trial and was currently sketching the Panama Canal Treaty debate in the Senate.  He graciously let me tag along as I tried my hand at sketching the Supreme Court.  We then went over to the Senate where I was overwhelmed by the task of sketching the chamber with all it’s senators milling about.  Howard told me that it was the hardest thing he had ever had to draw, and that gave me some comfort.


Brodie1

I started freelancing for CBS, although Howard still flew in from California for the big stories.  At the CBS bureau I had access to Howard’s drawings which I studied, and I tried to copy his style.  At dinner one evening when he was in town Howard remarked that his wife had seen my sketch of congressman Dan Flood, then on trial in District Court, and  thought it was Howard’s.  I was both thrilled and embarrassed.  Howard wasn’t upset though, but continued to give me encouragement.

 

Brodie2

There are many stories about Howard’s compassion; here’s one : during  the Watergate trial Howard came upon a pigeon with a broken wing.  Facing a tight deadline he didn’t have time to take the crippled bird to a veterinarian himself, so he hailed a cab and gave the driver money to cover the pigeon’s fare and care.

HowardBrodie

When it’s a slow day at the Supreme Court  I sometimes walk over to the Library of Congress, where Howard has donated most of his drawings.  I fill out a slip, give it to a librarian and pretty soon I’m once again getting fresh inspiration his amazing, strong drawings.

Thank you, Howard!

Howard Brodie’s obit in the San Francisco Chronicle can be found here.

Posted in History Tagged with:

Perspective Lesson

Crespi

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak  looks at the ethical question faced by
courtroom artists who take on private commissions in an article titled ‘Question of Perspective in Courtroom Paintings’ .  The article focuses on Todd Crespi ( shown above sketching Bush v. Gore in 2000 ), an artist who clearly crosses an ethical line.

I’m quoted in the article as saying I’m “not very critical of Todd” , and it may appear that I condone his misrepresentations. I don’t.

But before condemning him I need to remind myself of a few journalistic lapses in my past. It used to be common practice to have artists do “re-creations” for a news stories, and lawyers still ask to have their day in court sketched after the fact.

Today I have a bright line : a sketch artist doesn’t sketch what he has not witnessed.

Once on a visit to the Folger I saw two nearly identical 17th century prints of a knight on horseback, the only difference was that one had the head of Charles I, and the other the head of Oliver Cromwell.

 

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

The Trend Toward Anonymous Juries

Flood000079_jury

When former congressman William “Cold Cash” Jefferson stood trial in Alexandria last summer sketching the jury was not permitted.  Three decades earlier, at the bribery trial of congressman “Dapper” Dan Flood, the “jury-shot” was a standard among the images an artist was expected to turn out, along with the required wide-shot and head-shots.  What happened?

While forbidding artists to sketch the jury is not the same as juror anonymity it is part of the same trend.  Maryland and Virginia are both currently considering proposals to make all juries anonymous.

The reasons usually given for an anonymous jury are : (1) the defendant’s involvement with organized crime, (2) capacity to harm jurors, (3) interference with judicial process, (4) possibility of a severe sentence, and (5) extensive publicity that could expose jurors to harassment.

At the Oklahoma bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh a wall was built in the courtroom specifically to block the artists’ view of the jurors, which while perhaps excessive (trust us!) was understandable.

On the other hand, why the jury in the “Scooter” Libby trial was anonymous (identified by number only) escapes me.

Flood000079
Historical note: the jurors in Rep. Dan Flood’s trial voted 11-1 to convict on five bribery counts and three counts of perjury.  There followed a jury tampering investigation in which the only juror to vote for acquittal failed two lie-detector tests, but no further legal action was taken.

Flood entered a guilty plea before the start of his second trial.

More about anonymous juries here.

 

Posted in Congress, Courtroom, History Tagged with: ,

Sotomayor Investiture

SC090908wide
The sketch shows Justice Sotomayor being sworn in at today’s investiture ceremony. Attorney General Eric Holder and Solicitor General Elena Kagan are seated at the table. To the right is President Obama, and Vice-President Biden (I didn’t quite capture a good likeness of Biden). In the left foreground is the chair used by Chief Justice John Marshall in the early 19th century, and  where Sotomayor was seated as the Clerk read her commission.

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Farewell Justice Souter

SC090629wide
Monday was David Souter’s last day as a Supreme Court Justice, and this is last sketch of the bench as composed since Justice Alito was seated.

Come Fall, in a bit of musical chairs, Justice Thomas will take the seat vacated by Souter, Ginsberg will take Thomas’ seat, Breyer will take Ginsberg’s, and Alito will move to where Breyer used to sit. The new, most junior Justice will take her seat at the far end on the Chief Justice’s left.

Dana Milbank on Monday’s session here.

 

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Cuomo Quick Sketch

SC090330_Cuomo
Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo was in attendance today as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a long running asbestos settlement case. Johns-Manville, once the country’s largest asbestos mining and manufacturing corporation, went bankrupt in 1986 as it faced a deluge of asbestos injury lawsuits. As part of it’s reorganization plan the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust was created to shield Manville and it’s insurers from future claims, but in 2001 the asbestos plaintiffs’ bar asserted new grounds on which to sue Manville’s insurer, Travellers Insurance. Mario Cuomo led the mediation which reached a settlement in which Travellers would pay $500 million into a new trust in exchange for an order from the bankruptcy court “clarifying” the 1986 injuction. But not so fast! A number of third parties have objected to the proposed settlement and so here we are.

I really just posted this for my mom. She’s a Mario Cuomo fan.

Tony Mauro of Legal Times blogs about it here.

UPDATE: Tony Mauro later spoke with Mario Cuomo about his visit to the Court, and has a BLT post here.

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Ginsburg in Top Form

SC090224_Ginsburg
Just 18 days after undergoing major surgery Justice Ginsburg was smiling as she returned to the bench yesterday after the Supreme Court’s February break. She energetically questioned the attorneys arguing their case, at times rocking back and forth in her chair.

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Remembering Tim Russert

Libby0802_Russert

Tim was my boss.  After a terrible personal tragedy just about exactly a year ago he was one of the first persons to come by my office, close the door, and offer some words of comfort.

I admired him and was proud to work for him.  The sketch shows him on the witness stand during the Scooter Libby trial.  He did an impressive job holding his own during two days of very aggressive questioning by Libby’s lawyer.

I will miss him.

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with: ,

‘Lashon Hara’ exception

Shapiro080310

Overcoming a traditional reluctance to tell a truth with bad intent, known as lashon hara,  the sin of gossip, in the Jewish community, two young men spoke out in a Baltimore courtroom Monday. As former bar mitzvah teacher Israel Shapiro was about to be sentenced on child sexual molestation charges one of the plaintiffs testified “This man destroyed my life in many ways.”

Baltimore Jewish Times article here.

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with:

There’s a name for it: zebibah

Moussaoui060323

During the trial I blogged about the bruise on Moussaoui’s forehead resulting from his prostrations during prayer, but I couldn’t find the Arabic term for it. Well, it is called the zebibah and the NYT today has an article about it’s popularity in Egypt among the fashionably pious.

The NYT article is here.

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with:
2013_Blawg100Honoree_300x300
TWITTER @courtartist

Blog Updates

Enter your name and email below to receive blog updates via email.