As if being a Supreme Court Justice wasn’t reason enough, Justices Ginsburg and Kagan have just given us a new reason to admire them. In a Wall Street Journal article published on March 19, 2013, these two judicial heavy-hitters show that they can bring it in the gym as well.
The article focuses primarily on personal trainer Bryant Johnson, who counts not only Justices Ginsburg and Kagan as clients, but U.S. District Judges Thomas F. Hogan, Ellen S. Huvelle, Emmet G. Sullivan and Gladys Kessler. His is a great story of American entrepreneurship. By day, Johnson is a records manager in federal court’s clerk’s office. A veteran and fitness guru, he began training a friend from the clerk’s office and built his resume of VIPs from there. In the evening, he drives over to SCOTUS and works out with some of the greatest legal minds of the day.
Justice Kagan boxes with Johnson for her workouts. Justice Ginsburg likes to work on her pushups:
“When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz,” Ginsburg said in an interview. “Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”
This is a fun article, and it makes an important point about judges being real people who, like us, get haircuts, go to the grocery store, and gain weight if they sit behind their desks too long with no exercise. As they move through their own lives, they interact with “ordinary” people. I have actually lived this story on a much smaller scale–during my first year in practice, I was introduced by a colleague to a state circuit judge as we sweated side-by-side on Stairmasters. I knew who he was, of course, but he didn’t know me. We decided not to shake hands that day. I have also run into another judge in a local CVS, who gave me a wink after checking out my holey jeans and arms full of baby diapers and a pint of ice cream.
Even though these moments are awkward, they have the wonderful and important effect of bringing the Bar closer. They make my city and state an even better place to practice law. These moments also illustrate to all that the judges are part of the community. These are important messages in today’s society when our profession doesn’t always conujure up the Atticus Finch vision of lawyers.