Saying Goodbye to a Legend: A Tribute to Yale Kamisar – My Mentor, Teacher, and Friend

I remember it as though it was yesterday – dozens of students filing into Hutchins Hall for their first criminal procedure class. The legendary Yale Kamisar walked briskly to the front of the room, his upper body moving first slightly forward and then ever so slightly backward in almost a rocking manner. He carried nothing except for a two-inch black notebook, tattered at the edges and marked with brightly colored tabs protruding from each page. Paying no attention to the hundreds of eyes fixed on his every move, he dropped the notebook on the podium, stepped up to the blackboard, and began scribbling words and short phrases in three different columns: “Escobedo – coercion” “Miranda – compulsion” “custodial interrogation – voluntariness.” He does not look that scary, I thought to myself. After all, he wasn’t an especially large man. Sure, we had all heard the rumors about how he had thrown a book at a student once and had broken the student’s glasses in the process, but that was years ago. He was older now and seemed innocuous enough. “Mr. Smith, what was the single most important line in Miranda v. Arizona?” Kamisar’s voice boomed out from the front podium. It was like a scene out of The Paper Chase. The room fell silent as everyone looked around for poor Mr. Smith to come out from hiding.