U.S. Supreme Court

Alabama Law School a Go-To Destination for Justices; Ribs and Football Part of the Attraction

A persistent federal judge and lures as simple as good barbecue have helped bring U.S. Supreme Court justices to the University of Alabama law school for speaking engagements.

Ivy League law schools such as Harvard have always been popular with the justices. But the University of Alabama is popular too, the Associated Press reports. Seven current justices have already spoken at the school and two others—Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—have also agreed to appear.

“Southern hospitality is part of it,” the story says, “along with payments meant as a show of gratitude and personal pleas from other judges, friends and the occasional U.S. senator. And there are added attractions that an Ivy League school may have a hard time matching, like spare ribs slathered with barbecue sauce, Crimson Tide football games and, in one case, a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird autographed by author Harper Lee.”

U.S. District Judge W. Harold Albritton of Montgomery is another catalyst. He has been asking justices to visit his alma mater since the 1990s for a lecture series funded by his family. “It’s not big-time wining and dining, it’s just being pleasant to people,” Albritton told AP. He made sure Justice Anthony M. Kennedy visited Dreamland for its famous ribs, for example. Justice Clarence Thomas went to a football game, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got the autographed book.

The Albritton Fund pays justices’ expenses and an honorarium. Sometimes it goes to charity, sometimes it is declined and sometimes it goes into the justices’ pockets. In 2009, for example, Justice Antonin Scalia got $4,500 and Justice Clarence Thomas got $5,000. Another year, Thomas asked that his payment go to a convent. Other justices have also named charities to receive their money.

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