Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy lamented the state of civic discourse May 20 while speaking to a room full of prominent attorneys and judges.
“Civility has never been needed more than it is needed today,” Kennedy said while accepting the American Law Institute’s Friendly Medal in honor of Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly.
Kennedy said it was his hope that the country will have “recovered” from the current state of public discourse in the next few years.
Kennedy said the award will inspire him to spread the word about civility and decency.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who clerked for the iconic Judge Friendly from 1979 to 1980 presented Kennedy with the award.
Roberts lauded Kennedy for his “special combination of legal acuity” and kindness.
Roberts recalled that Kennedy had approached Roberts after his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the D.C. Circuit faltered, telling the would-be chief justice that additional time in private practice would be beneficial to his legal career.
When Roberts was later confirmed to be chief justice he noted the conversation to his new colleague, saying, “You were right.”
“Well, you’ll find that’s usually the case,” Roberts recalls Kennedy replying.
The event was also attended by the court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s not the first time Roberts has presented the Friendly Medal to a colleague. Last year, he presented Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the same honor.