David Nelson’s Passing

The judge I clerked for, David A. Nelson of the Sixth Circuit, who retired several years ago, died recently. His funeral is tomorrow in Cincinnati. Judge Nelson was a very honorable man, always kind and considerate to his clerks, polite but exacting with attorneys at oral argument, an excellent writer, and an all-around great judge. He was a judicial conservative in the best sense of the word; he avoided broad, unnecessary pronouncements, trying to decide each case on the narrowest grounds that would resolve the matter. This was occasionally frustrating for his clerks, who as young eager-beavers were eager to join the latest debates over the Due Process Clause, the First Amendment, or whatnot. We recognized, however, that Judge Nelson’s job was not to keep us entertained. Not surprisingly, Judge Nelson had the enduring respect of his colleagues on the Sixth Circuit, including his ideological adversaries. He will be greatly missed.

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