How are Cockle Legal Briefs and the United States Supreme Court linked? (Other than the fact that Cockle has been printing briefs for filing with the Supreme Court since 1923.)
Through the College World Series, of course.
Here is the linkage between the Court and Cockle by way of the baseball championship (which began this year on June 18):
- Cockle Legal Briefs is located in downtown Omaha, Nebraska.
- The College World Series has been played every year since 1950 in Omaha, first at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, and since 2011 at T.D. Ameritrade Park, which is downtown just east of the Creighton University campus and is the field where Creighton’s baseball team plays its home games.
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas married Virginia Lamp of Omaha before he was appointed to the Court.
- “Ginni” Lamp received her undergraduate and law degrees from Creighton U.
- The only year that Creighton’s baseball team won a berth in the College World Series was 1991, but it was eliminated in a semifinal game, played June 5, 1991.
- Less than a month later, on July 1, 1991, President George H.W. Bush (born the year after Cockle began printing Supreme Court petitions) nominated Clarence Thomas for the U.S. Supreme Court. After a bit of a hard-ball confirmation process, Thomas assumed office that same October.
- Both Justice Thomas and President Bush are graduates of Yale University.
- At Yale, Bush was a left-handed first baseman and captain on the team that went to both the first and second College World Series, in 1947 and 1948 (and never again). Those first tournaments, like the major leagues’ World Series, involved only two teams, and Yale lost both series (played in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before the Omaha days) to different California teams, 2-0.
- The 1948 games were played on June 25 and 26, just after Clarence Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia, on June 23.
- Thomas’s other school, the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, did better than Yale in the College World Series, winning it in 1952 and playing in it three more times between 1958 and 1963, all of those series held in Omaha.
- Also making it down the “Road to Omaha” four times was Harvard College’s Crimson baseball team, its last CWS appearance being 1974, the same year Clarence Thomas graduated from Yale.
- And also the same year that District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland, the current nominee for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College before going on to Harvard Law School.
Which segues into another link:
- When Merrick Garland was growing up in Skokie, Illinois, his Omaha cousin Marty Shukert would visit during family vacations. Marty went to Yale and became a city planner, returning for his career to Omaha, where he was the city’s planning director for several years. Meanwhile cousin Merrick went off to Harvard and became a lawyer — and married his wife the same year Clarence Thomas married an Omahan and Creighton grad.
- When Omaha was considering tearing down Rosenblatt Stadium and building a new ballpark in a largely vacant or rundown area just north of downtown, Shukert offered the City a few specific opinions about where to locate the stadium and how to design it in a way that would better enhance growth of the north downtown area. But he mainly pushed to rebuild Rosenblatt for the College World Series while letting Omaha’s minor league team move to north downtown and build its own ballpark. The City rejected all of Shukert’s ideas, the old stadium was imploded, the College World Series moved to the new ballpark downtown (after threatening to bolt for another city), the Class AAA baseball team headed for the next county to the south, and, as he told Cockle Legal Briefs in an email, Shukert’s only suggestion that was actually accepted was to keep the old Rosenblatt infield to let kids “run the basepaths used by so many great baseball names.”
- Whether Shukert’s cousin ever visits Omaha to see a College World Series game as Justice Garland depends at the moment on a political ally of Garland’s second cousin, the current Republican governor of Iowa. Another Iowa Republican, Judiciary Committee Chair U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, attended an Iowa college that years later fell just one game short of making it to Omaha.
And, just to really nail the connection between the Supreme Court and the College World Series, there is a link through novelist John Grisham:
- Grisham is a passionate baseball fan who was a law student at Mississippi State University when he drove to Omaha in 1979 to attend his first College World Series and saw his school’s team win one game before being eliminated. Grisham returned to the CWS many times since, including last year when nine-time CWS qualifier Mississippi State lost in the championship game.
- In between, Grisham wrote “The Pelican Brief,” a legal thriller heavily focused on intrigue involving vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Finally, to really stretch the connection back to Cockle Legal Briefs, pelicans are native to Cockle Bay in New South Wales, Australia.
Now that we have touched all the bases, we have to go out and shoo the CWS fans out of our parking lot.