The Words of the Biermans Family

Father's Case -- A Day in the Life

John Biermans
June 1984

Filing a legal brief can be a rather complicated matter. But when it comes to preparing and submitting the most important legal brief in history, there is a little more involved.... I have certainly discovered this to be true in recent months, working on Father's appeal. However, it has never been as dramatic as it was during the last 24 hours, so I would like to describe what happened.

First, a little background. As you are aware, Father's lawyers, led by Professor Tribe of Harvard University, filed a petition for certiorari on January 26 of this year, requesting that the Supreme Court hear Father's appeal. Since that time, sixteen amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs have been filed on behalf of forty different groups and individuals in support of our appeal. Then, on April 9, the government filed its brief opposing the appeal. This did not come as a total surprise since it is normal practice. Nevertheless, we had hoped that the government would have been somewhat sensitive to the many religious and civil rights organizations who are convinced that the constitutional rights of Father and our church were seriously violated. Their concern and fear is that the government's abuse of Father's rights will have far-reaching implications for all religions.

The government's brief with its "dirty story" about Father's case totally ignored their concerns, simply dismissing the amicus briefs as uninformed. (Lawyers often use the term "dirty story" in this type of situation to describe an attempt to discredit someone's character.) This set the stage for a powerful and incisive response by Father's legal team. There was very little time to prepare such a response since the clerks of the Supreme Court were already reading all of the briefs in preparation for a conference by the nine Justices to consider this historic case on April 27. For this reason, Professor Tribe immediately began drafting our "Reply Brief" from the moment he read the government's brief on April 9.

It was extremely urgent that a strong response be made to expose the government's many false explanations and distortions about Father and our movement. By Saturday, April 14, more than ten drafts had already been written. Meanwhile, many lawyers were making suggestions about how to improve our response to dispel all of the government's terribly misleading statements about Father's appeal. Suddenly that evening, after receiving all these suggestions, Professor Tribe had finally hit upon just the right way of exposing the government's "dirty story"!

This commenced a furious and tireless effort on the part of our entire legal team to prepare a brief which could go to the printer on Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m.

On Sunday, April 15, Professor Tribe gave us his new enlightened version and our team at 43rd Street began a marathon effort to complete this brief. This involved constantly running back and forth between Professor Tribe's hotel and 43rd Street with new drafts, corrections, revisions and all types of legal supplies. Our secretary's fingers literally flew over the keys of the word processor -- the urgency of the situation intensifying her efforts. At 8:00 p.m. we were asked by Professor Tribe to bring the latest, most complete draft to the printer in a lower Manhattan warehouse. We knew we were in for a long night....

The typesetter, a middle-aged man named Lou, had just been called to come in to work -- unexpectedly disrupting his Sunday evening plans with his family. However, he was very sincere and began work on his line-o-type machine at about 8:40 p.m. Then there was Hamilton, a wonderful elderly man, one of the proprietors of the printing shop, who also sacrificed all of his previous plans in order to work all night to print Father's brief. These two men were truly prepared for this mission and they responded with an absolutely willing heart. This was very important since the printing plant we had originally contracted could not find willing employees to work throughout the night.

And so the process began of receiving copies of the proof sheets and proofreading them for any mistakes, delivering them in five-page installments to Professor Tribe and two other lawyers for corrections and then going back again to the printer. By 6:30 a.m. we had completed the brief (or so we thought) and it was brought to Professor 1 Tribe. We anticipated that only minor corrections would be made, so Lou, the typesetter went home to bed.

However, when Professor Tribe received the latest version, he and the other lawyers felt that it just wasn't perfect yet, and that more improvements were needed to make it exactly what would dispel all the false impressions left by the government brief.

This is when I began to worry! When the new corrections were made, we raced down to the printer again and began making frantic calls to arrange for another typesetter. Ham began valiantly to make the corrections but he was simply not fast enough. Why were we so desperate? Our plan had been to complete the brief by 7:00 a.m. so that it could then be printed immediately and delivered to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. by the afternoon. We were very anxious that it be received by early afternoon, so that it could be distributed to each of the Justices and their law clerks before the close of the day. If our reply brief was not distributed on this specific day, it might have been too late for some of the clerks to read it in time.... This could not happen.... This would be disaster...So we became desperate to complete the job on time.

Professor Tribe called the Supreme Court Clerk and was told that if we could deliver forty copies before 4:30 p.m., they would he distributed before the end of the day. However, it was then 10:45 a.m. and the brief was not nearly complete -- many corrections were yet to be made.

Fortunately, we were able to contact our typesetter again and call him back in from Long Island after only thirty minutes of sleep. No one else was available on such short notice at this time because it was Passover and the beginning of the Easter Holy Week. However, as soon as he began, Lou injured one of his fingers. Fortunately it was not too serious so that he could continue after a short time. Eventually, the work neared completion. Professor lithe came down to the printing plant himself to do the final proofreading and to give final approval for the actual printing to begin.

The excitement and tension began to mount since by this time it was already 1:00 p.m. In order to make it on time, we knew we had to catch a 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. flight to Washington. We left the shop at 2:30 p.m. and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. There was traffic everywhere -- a semi was blocking the street we wanted to take -- where is the Brooklyn Bridge when you need it?!

Nevertheless, we did not give up hope -- we eventually found the Brooklyn Bridge. But then, where do you go once you get off the Brooklyn Bridge -- downtown Brooklyn... but where is La Guardia airport: By 2:45 p.m. we were sweating. We drove frantically but there was such heavy traffic and our hopes sank fast.

Suddenly the heavy traffic broke. We made it for the 3:00 p.m. Eastern shuttle with two minutes to spare. I found a seat as close to the front as possible for a quick exit. During the flight I held the package of forty briefs very tightly, praying over them the whole way down, hoping desperately that they would have some kind of profound spiritual impact on whoever would be reading them.

You may think I was breathing a sigh of relief -- I was -- until we arrived in Washington twenty minutes late -- at 4:15 p.m. 1 had no idea how I could make it on time --I could only try despite the rush-hour traffic and the very limited time. So 1 rushed out of the plane -- racing ahead of everyone and jumping into the first cab available. My cabbie was great -- he fulfilled his mission by driving at top speed (my offer of a large tip might have had something to do with that...). The rush-hour traffic going into Washington was actually nonexistent for some "unknown" reason. The cab driver was incredulous; usually at that time of day that highway is "the biggest parking lot in the world!" And so we very quickly arrived at the Supreme Court building at 4:26 p.m.

Not knowing where to go, I went to the wrong entrance. Fortunately, I received proper directions, signed into the building at 4:28 p.m. and arrived the Clerks' office at 4:30 p.m. I was assured that the briefs would definitely be distributed to all of the Justices and clerks that night!

I felt so victorious and grateful that we had been able to accomplish despite all odds. This became especially significant later when Professor Tribe told us that he had been advised that he "must make sure to file the brief today if at all humanly possible...." It wasn't "humanly possible," but with the help of a few of our friends in other realms, we were able to accomplish this critical mission. 

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