Tribute to Judge Rabinowitz

CitationVol. 15
Publication year1998

§ 15 Alaska L. Rev. 205. Tribute to Judge Rabinowitz

Alaska Law Review
Volume 15
Cited: 15 Alaska L. Rev. 205


Tribute to Judge Rabinowitz


Steve Williams


I was very honored when I was asked to speak as a representative of Justice Rabinowitz's law clerks. But before I might be seized by an unseemly fit of pride, a person on the organizing committee of former clerks confided that one reason I had been chosen was because my legal career had peaked with my clerkship for Justice Rabinowitz right after law school.

That may have been intended as a humorous remark, but like most humor it contained more than a grain of truth. My clerkship with Justice Rabinowitz almost twenty years ago was among the most challenging, interesting, and rewarding work experiences I have had.

But what am I to say about Justice Rabinowitz, who served as one of Alaska's first Superior Court judges after statehood, has been a Supreme Court Justice for 32 years, and Chief Justice about a third of those years? Clearly Alaska's most prominent judicial figure. A person for whom I have tremendous respect, admiration, and affection.

As his former clerks, his colleagues, and his friends can appreciate, I was confident that Justice Rabinowitz would be an easy, uncritical audience. But I also knew that he was very resistant to the idea of a traditional "retirement dinner" of rubber chicken and war stories. That is why this event is here at the Performing Arts Center and honors him largely with music.

But this evening is a tribute to Jay and things must be said.

I will call him Jay, not out of disrespect, but in the interest of brevity, fewer syllables, shorter speech. Besides, in the Alaska legal community, he is one of those iconic figures who can be identified by one name. Madonna, Shaq, Elvis, Ella, Jay.

So this is my tribute to Jay, my attempt to express in small part my appreciation, and that of my fellow clerks, both for what he has done and who he is.

I have always liked the context for the word "tribute." Unsurprisingly, its root is Latin for tribe, a concept with which Alaskans are becoming reacquainted. Its focus is on the reciprocal obligations of the community and the individual. Tribute originally [*pg 206] referred to levies or taxes given to the community's leaders. However, the word more recently came to be used in...

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