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Stuart Scheingold


This is a very, very sad day.

It can be daunting to meet people you admire through their work. I never got around to doing a “10 books that influenced me the most” list when that meme went around earlier this year, but there was never any question about what would top the list. Scheingold’s marvelous book The Politics of Rights, first published in 1974 and more relevant than ever, was a crucial reason not only for choosing to attend the University of Washington for grad school but for choosing law and courts as a scholarly specialty in the first place.  Even in years when I don’t teach it, I have to read it; I never fail to learn something, to notice another insight that illuminates something I’d missed or causes me to look at a puzzle in a new way.  But, as most of us learned the hard way, outstanding professional achievement doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a good person; I’m sure almost all of us have had experiences where we’d just as soon have not met someone whose work we admired.

With Stu (I’m going to drop the formality because one of the few things that could make him visibly angry was for one of his students to call him “Professor Scheingold,” which is instructive in itself) the personal and professional qualities were happily correlated. Indeed, despite scholarship whose quality, breadth, and influence was remarkable and, for an incoming graduate student, intimidating — including pioneering studies of comparative law, analyses of the politics of crime whose prescience still amazes, cutting-edge work on cause lawyering — he was a genuinely modest and kind man, intellectually and academic rigorous without the slightest hint of pretension or arrogance. He was a model as both an advisor and friend, and he and Lee were a model marriage as well.   His physical and intellectual energy were always remarkable.  His erudition was not limited to his scholarly interests — he took great pleasure and interest in a good walk, good food, good wine, and often not-that-good Seattle Mariners baseball. And yet his scholarly passions continued, because he cared about the work, not status. Well into his “retirement” and even after his tragic illness first struck, he continued to publish terrific work that explored new territory rather than reiterating old themes.  And his legacy will live on it UW for many decades; it’s not coincidence that so many of the legal scholars at UW have striven to replicate both his scholarly excellence and his personal fairness and warmth and collegiality.

He was a great scholar and a great man, and I feel much poorer today. R.I.P.

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