Built by Association: Fred Rodell

Michael Widener
Fred Rodell, inscription to "Mayor La Guardia"

Fred Rodell’s inscribed copy (to “my favorite statesman”) of his book Woe Unto You, Lawyers! (1939).

Born in Philadelphia, Rodell graduated from Yale Law School in 1931, where he served as case and comment editor for the Yale Law Journal. He joined the Yale law faculty in 1933 and taught there for the next 41 years.

An iconoclast from the beginning, Rodell wrote “Goodbye to Law Reviews”—perhaps the most widely read and most controversial law-review article ever written—when he was only a very junior faculty member. He preferred to write for journalistic outlets such as Saturday Review, The Progressive, and The New York Times Magazine. He taught a popular class at Yale on legal journalism.

His 1939 book Woe Unto You, Lawyers! was his most famous. He charged that the legal profession was a “pseudo-intellectual autocracy” (p. 3). Rodell inscribed this copy to his “favorite statesman.” Examination under a black light reveals the obscured name to be “Mayor La Guardia,” i.e. Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947), the charismatic mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945.

          – Bryan A. Garner

“Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers, from Bryan A. Garner’s Collection”, an exhibit curated by Bryan A. Garner with Mike Widener, is on display until December 16, 2013 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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