Dear Norm,

You’ve meant more to me, personally and professionally, than you know. I was only 5 or 6 years out of law school when I started at the ABA. To debate ideas with someone of your stature was intimidating and exhilarating. I learned more about public defense from you and your writings than I did in any courtroom or lecture hall.

Here in Austin, Texas, a well-worn copy of Securing Reasonable Caseloads sits on my shelf, a scribble-filled ABA Ten Principles sits on my desk, and news of Formal Opinion 486 sits in my inbox—tangible and constant reminders of the impact of one man.

We’ll never be able to tally the lives that have improved because of your pursuit of justice. One of the lovely things about our work is that educating defenders can be a multiplier, rippling positive effects from attorney, to clients, to friends, to families, to communities. But, as one of the thousands of lives you’ve affected, I would like to tell you how grateful I am.

My goal today—as it has been since we met—is to be at least half as intelligent, a fourth as passionate, and an eighth as kind as you have been. (As I enter my 40s, I’ve lost hope of being as lucid or fit as you have been in your 80s.)

Thank you for all you’ve done in this world and thank you for all you’ve done for me.


Geoff Burkhart

P.S. And thanks for introducing Eliza and me to Shapiro’s.