Remarks of Howard J. Bashman at Portrait Presentation Honoring Third Circuit Judge William D. Hutchinson at a Ceremonial En Banc Sitting of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Friday November 2, 2001
By Howard J. Bashman
Friday, November 02, 2001

Today's portrait presentation ceremony is a joyful occasion for the law clerks of William D. Hutchinson. Some of us worked for Justice Hutchinson from 1982 through 1987 during his tenure on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Others of us worked for Judge Hutchinson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he served from 1987 until his untimely death in October of 1995.

The two years that I served as Judge Hutchinson's law clerk, from August of 1989 through August of 1991, were two of the most interesting and most enjoyable years of my life.

Judge Hutchinson was born in 1932 in Minersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. After attending college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and law school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he returned home to practice law in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Schuylkill County. Five years later he became an assistant district attorney for Schuylkill County and then, six years after that, served as County Solicitor. In 1972, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served in the Pennsylvania Legislature for the next ten years, representing the area of Pennsylvania where he was born and which he loved so much. In 1981, he ran for election to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. After winning the election, Justice Hutchinson quickly developed a well-earned reputation for being one of the best and the brightest justices serving on that Court. He had his local chambers in the Schuylkill County Courthouse in Pottsville. That Courthouse sits majestically high on a hillside there.

Justice Hutchinson's exemplary work as an appellate jurist caused President Reagan to nominate him in 1987 to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Hutchinson then became the first and so far only Third Circuit judge to have his chambers in Pottsville. Those chambers were on the ground floor of a Victorian structure located in Pottsville's historic Garfield Square.

History was a topic that was near and dear to Judge Hutchinson's heart, and his place in the history of the Third Circuit deserves mention.

While the Third Circuit, as a geographical unit, traces its history back to the Judiciary Act of 1801, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit did not come into existence until 90 years later. In 1891, Congress passed the Evarts Act, which created the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, including the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia.

Between 1891 and today, fifty-six judges have served on the Third Circuit. Judge Hutchinson was the forty-fourth member of this Court. The seat that Judge Hutchinson occupied on the Third Circuit was one of the two original judgeships that Congress created on the Court in 1891. The judges who have held this seat on the Third Circuit are, in chronological order, George Mifflin Dallas of Philadelphia, William M. Lanning of Trenton, John B. McPherson of Harrisburg, Thomas G. Haight of Jersey City, John Warren Davis of New Jersey, Charles Alvin Jones of Pittsburgh, Harry Kalodner of Philadelphia, Arlin Adams of Philadelphia, and, currently, Judge Marjorie Rendell of Philadelphia.

Judge Hutchinson was only the second person to have served both as a Judge on the Third Circuit and as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The other was the aforementioned Charles Alvin Jones, who left the Third Circuit in 1944 to take a seat on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, where he served as Justice and later as Chief Justice of that Court.

During Judge Hutchinson's fourteen years as an appellate jurist, he wrote some 324 published majority or plurality opinions, 125 while serving on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and another 199 while serving on the Third Circuit. And, those totals do not include Judge Hutchinson's concurring or dissenting opinions, nor do they include the per curiam or unpublished opinions that he wrote.

Judge Hutchinson's opinions demonstrate that he worked tirelessly to reach the result that the law demanded, even when that required him to put aside matters of personal preference. His written opinions also reflect that Judge Hutchinson has considered and addressed the losing party's arguments or has explained clearly why those arguments cannot be addressed on the merits.

Over the years, as the Third Circuit's workload grew larger and larger, and the Court often did not have its full complement of active judges, Judge Hutchinson always ensured that every case and every motion assigned to him received his close personal attention. Judge Hutchinson recognized that sometimes one judge on a panel will spot an issue, or notice a flaw in a proposed outcome, that the other two judges did not see. I can remember many occasions where Judge Hutchinson caused his colleagues on a panel to reconsider the result they had tentatively reached and to arrive, instead, at a different, even more correct, result. Of course, Judge Hutchinson greatly appreciated the reciprocal attention that other judges paid to his work to make sure that his reasoning and proposed disposition were correct. Judge Hutchinson should be remembered for his attention to detail, and for his belief that no litigant, and no appeal, was too inconsequential to receive anything less than his full attention.

Moments from now, Judge Hutchinson's portrait will be presented to this Court. Judge Hutchinson's wife and family, his law clerks, and the Third Circuit Historical Society and Circuit Executive's Office all deserve recognition for their contributions and hard work that have made today's portrait presentation ceremony possible.

Family was very important to Judge Hutchinson, and he treated his law clerks as though they were a part of his extended family. Indeed, Judge Hutchinson always made his law clerks' spouses and children feel most welcome at his annual clerkship gatherings and whenever else they were in his presence. Happily, Mrs. Hutchinson has continued to hold gatherings for the law clerks and their families each year.

Judge Hutchinson would be very pleased to learn of the achievements of his law clerks, many of whom have developed into talented appellate advocates. Some are today working as partners or senior associates in large or small firms that span from California to New York and from north to south. Others work for the government, either as prosecutors or as public defenders. Some work directly to further the public interest. For example, one works in the Staff Attorney's Office of the Third Circuit, and another serves as senior counsel to the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee.

Being an appellate judge can be something of a lonely endeavor, especially for someone who loved to interact with people as Judge Hutchinson did, but it was obvious that there was no other job that Judge Hutchinson would have preferred to be doing. He had scaled to the greatest heights of his profession without abandoning either the values that led him there or the region of Pennsylvania that he called home.

I can say without any hesitation that clerking for Judge Hutchinson was the best career choice I ever made. The clerkship introduced me to the practice of appellate litigation, which I have made the focus of my career as an attorney. The clerkship allowed me to work closely with a wonderful jurist who thereafter remained a good friend. And, the clerkship introduced me to co-clerks who ten years later are still among my closest friends.

Judge Hutchinson's judicial opinions, his portrait, and the careers of those who have learned by working at his side will collectively prove to be the legacy of his many years of work on the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. It is a legacy for which we should all feel very thankful and very proud.



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