A wing of Sacramento's federal courthouse was christened Thursday evening the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center, with the beaming U.S. Supreme Court member in attendance.
The invitation-only event was preceded by a reception in the rotunda of the Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse, followed with remarks by stars of the legal world and topped by a stemwinder from the guest of honor.
The guests then repaired to the adjacent library, where a bronze statute of Kennedy cradling a law book was unveiled. The piece was created by renowned Greek sculptor Vangelis Moustakas and is a gift to the library and learning center from Angelo K. and Sofia Tsakopoulos, prominent Sacramento citizens and longtime friends of Kennedy and his wife, Mary Kennedy, both Sacramento natives.
Moustakas traveled from Greece to be at the unveiling and was introduced to the guests by Angelo Tsakopoulos.
The inscription on the base of the sculpture - "Liberty Comes Not From Officials By Force But From The Constitution By Right" - is appropriate for one of the world's most dedicated constitutional evangelists.
Brief remarks were made before the unveiling by Morrison C. England Jr., chief judge of the U.S. District Court based in Sacramento; Doris Matsui, a congresswoman and widow of the late congressman for whom the courthouse is named; Joe Genshlea, attorney and boyhood friend of Kennedy; and Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and one of the first two law clerks for Kennedy when he was named to the circuit court.
Kozinski said his old boss is "transcendent" and "the greatest Supreme Court justice of his generation."
Then it was Kennedy's turn. For a full 20 minutes, without referring to notes or missing a beat, he transfixed his audience with a passionate talk about the vitality of the law and how it must be preserved from generation to generation.
The evening was a culmination of an idea that U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller brought back to Sacramento after visiting a learning center in the federal courthouse in St. Louis.
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