My love for the U.S. Constitution took root in my early years. From the time I was a young child, my parents taught me about the separation of powers, checks and balances, due process, equal protection, and the limited role of our federal government. It never really occurred to me that I was being taught about the Constitution; these were just conversations we had from time to time around the dinner table, in the car, and whenever the subject of government happened to arise. Before long, I learned what it meant to be an appellate lawyer because every time my siblings or I would disagree with our parents’ decisions about bedtimes or chores or allowances, they would say, “Make your case. You’re probably not going to win, but we’ll listen.”
When I was about ten years old, I started routinely accompanying my dad whenever he argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. As kind and wise a man as I’ve ever known, he was the founding dean of BYU’s law school, and in 1981 he became the solicitor general of the United States, the federal government’s chief advocate before the Supreme Court. I’d watch with bated breath as the black-robed justices fired questions at him. He had a way of answering their questions in a manner that was not only responsive but also carefully calculated to advance his case. The verbal jousting I saw between lawyers and justices wasn’t quite as raucous as the debates at our dinner table, but after the oral argument ended, my dad would be so excited that he reminded me of a giddy child on a sugar high.