This year we have selected retired Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald of the Illinois Supreme Court to be our Person of the Year. There were plenty of obvious reasons for selecting Fitzgerald, a man of many accomplishments throughout a 30-year career as a judge. But the thing that stuck in our minds as we ran through the possible selections for Person of the Year was the grace with which he retired.
Not to pile on a future Hall of Famer having an awful close to a great career, but Brett Favre could take a lesson from Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald announced his retirement in September, because he had been recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Rather than hide the diagnosis, or medicate himself to stave off the effects of the disease while remaining on the bench, Fitzgerald simply announced that it was time to go, before the disease had an impact on his ability to carry out his duties.
As I read through the story by staff writer Amanda Robert, I felt that the simplicity of his retirement statement was emblematic of Fitzgerald (whom I have not met). What comes through in the article - from the quotes from friends and colleagues and the issues he tackled during his career - is the deep humility of the man. In this age of celebrity and public arrogance, it is truly an honor for us to give notice to a very special man. The story starts here.
With this issue, we are beginning something we have not done before: a year-long series of stories focused on a particular group of attorneys: the Cook County public defenders and state's attorneys. Often overlooked in the glare of corporate law firms, these offices are often the training ground for trial lawyers in personal-injury firms - plaintiff and defense - but, more than that, they are home to idealists, lawyers who want to make our society a better place, a more honorable place.
We start here, with a photographic essay - another first for the magazine - by freelance photographer Natalie Battaglia, who was given extraordinary access to both offices. This photo essay, which is the brainchild of editor Olivia Clarke, will serve as the foundation for the series. You will meet a few of the people in the offices and get a look inside. We think that over the course of the year, we will all come to know a lot more about these dedicated, hard-working, admirable lawyers.
Amanda also wrote a story this month on Google Book Search, the search-engine giant's attempt to digitize millions of books, bringing book publishing into the 21st century long before the end of the 21st century. The project was the subject of a class-action lawsuit over copyright infringement, but the parties have reached a tentative agreement. Amanda's story focuses on the impact of this enormous project on the law of copyright and on learning around the world, as it will give everyone with access to a computer the ability to read virtually any book ever written. Her story starts here.
And in a related matter, though without our having thought about it, in this issue's "On the Books," Leonard Rubin of Querrey & Harrow reviews a book on copyright written by, of course, the senior copyright counsel for Google, William Patry. The book is "Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars," and it is an argument for a new paradigm for approaching the issue of copyrights. According to Rubin, Patry is well-known as an iconoclastic thinker in the world of copyright law. Even if you're not especially interested in copyright law, this review is interesting on its own. Rubin's review is here.
One of the many delights of this job is reading for the simple enjoyment of reading enjoyable writing. I look forward every month to receiving our two entertainment columns, "Opening Statement," written by Julian Frazin, and "Counsel's Table," by Michael Philippi. Both distinguish themselves by the knowledge and enthusiasm they bring to their subjects - theater and restaurants (I was going to say "food," but Mike Philippi is also concerned with the restaurant - how it looks, how it feels, how the wait staff treats the customers).
You can read Julian's reviews of "Traces," "Peter Pan" and "At Home at the Zoo," here, and Mike's review of Vivo, an Italian place on West Randolph, here.