Crime and Federalism Defeat
The Ham Sandwich Privilege

A Grim Reminder

We are all from time to time stars in someone else's melodrama. Lawyers are counselors to the distraught and advocates for those in search of hope. We strut, we preen, we howl in delight, we rage in sorrow. And then we shed the role of warrior and go home to be husband, wife, father, mother.

We think we're outside the high-stakes game we play with such passion.

Then one of us is murdered. At once, none is a star; all are bereft.

There are no words to convey the horror awaiting United States District Judge Joan Humphry Lefkow when she returned home last night. Murder Her husband, himself a lawyer, and her mother were executed, shot point blank in the heads and left like fallen timber in her home. The Chicago jurist found them at the end of a long day presiding over other people's sorrows.

The judge was threatened in 2003 by a white supremacist, Matthew Hale, after a ruling depriving his organization of the use of the name World Church of the Creator. Someone else already had the name. Obvisouly, Hale is a suspect in these murders.

In this passionate life we have chosen, this life of argument, conflict, late-nights in pursuit of narrow goals, it is easy to draw imaginary lines between friend and foe. It is as easy to hate as it is to love.

But today all those lines are washed away by sorrow and gnawing awareness that the life of the law is no mere game. The murder of the judge's family chastens. It grieves. It reminds us that each of us is more than a mere combatant. In the dark of night we are no different than those we represent. We all stand at risk of being the victim of a stranger's rage.