Three generations of justice's family part of legal ritual

June 25, 1991|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Three Thurgood Marshalls played bit parts in a small family drama at the Supreme Court yesterday.

Grandfather Thurgood Marshall, a justice on the court since 1970 -- its first and only black member -- removed his robe, came down from the bench, and walked to the lawyer's lectern, occasionally leaning on a cane. He will be 83 next Tuesday.

Addressing his colleagues in a brief but forceful way, the justice asked them to allow a lawyer to join the court's bar and practice there: his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr. At the same time, he asked that his daughter-in-law, Colleen P. Mahoney, Thurgood's wife, be admitted.

With smiles across the bench, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist granted the motion. Unseen by most of the courtroom observers, and unheard by any of them, the couple's 2 1/2 -year-old son, Thurgood William, peeked out from between the heavy red drapes next to the family seating section with his grandmother at his side.

Thurgood Marshall Jr., 34, graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1981 and is a lawyer on the staff of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Ms. Mahoney, 33, a 1981 graduate of American University Law School, is chief counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division.

Mr. Marshall and Ms. Mahoney could have become "officers of the court," as lawyers of that bar are called, seven years ago -- three years after joining state bar associations. They waited, the justice's son said, because "it just took until now for us to get everything together."

Before yesterday's brief ritual, Justice Marshall checked a precedent for the protocol. He talked with retired Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who sponsored the admission in 1985 of his son, Lewis Powell III, and his wife, Mims Maynard Powell.

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