Noel Fidel

5 posts

Whose Words These Are I Think I Know

In late November 1962, Robert Frost came to Dartmouth College to read, or as he put it, say his poems to our freshman class. Many of us had memorized and recited Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening and The Road Not Taken in high school. Some of us the year before had watched on television as the wind-buffeted old poet recited The Gift Outright in the January chill of the Kennedy Inauguration. And by November 1962 all of us had learned we had one thing in common with our speaker; he too had entered Dartmouth as a freshman, though […]


When I open an illustrated novel—a treat from time gone by—I do as I have always done: I scan the illustrations from front to back to see what characters await me. When I roamed the stacks of the Cornelia Young Public Library as a young reader in Daytona Beach, the drawings whet my appetite for the tale. Through them I found my way into The Count of Monte Cristo, The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, David Copperfield, and other favorites of those years. I retain some fondness for David Copperfield, for it was the first big book I loved. […]

Variations on a Theme by Hoagy

I had learned a lot that semester, but had another lesson still to learn. It was late fall 2002 and I was giving the last class of my first course of my first year teaching law. As I neared retiring from the bench, I’d been invited to teach at ASU. Eager to teach what I knew and reexamine what I thought I knew, I devised a seminar in statutory interpretation. “This course will be deeply theoretical,” I told my students, “but also intensely practical. We’ll study the range of theories of what judges should do when interpreting statutes, and we’ll […]

Judicial Humor

In a recent published order, Judge Alex Kozinski rejected a complaint that a judge had engaged in misconduct by making jokes about a candidate for public office. “The mere fact that a statement takes the form of a joke,” Judge Kozinski wrote, “does not render it misconduct; humor is the pepper spray in the arsenal of persuasive literary ordnance: It is often surprising, disarming and, when delivered with precision, highly effective.” In Re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, Order No. 10-90016, Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, Feb. 2. 2011. Highly effective? Yes, sometimes. Timing and delivery certainly help. It also […]

The Try-Works

I call this section The Try-Works because I’ll try here to capture some fleeting notions from time to time, and try to hang on long enough to render them into words. I might have called it Musings or Notions — or Ephemera for that matter, for only the ephemeral may be found here. But I borrowed my title instead from Melville (see, thinking that the old customs officer, if he could roam the docks today, might take some amusement from the notion that a reader could press a button, launch on cyberseas, and instantly take up conversation with Ishmael […]