In a performance one courtroom observe described as "brilliant," a Harvard Law School professor this week argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark case that could change liquor licensing laws in as many as thirty states.
Arguing on behalf of Grendel's Den. Laurence H. Tribe '62, professor of Law, defended the Square restaurant's right to obtain a liquor license despite the objection of an adjacent church. A spokesman said the high court is not likely to reach a decision in the case for several months:
Tribe said yesterday he was "hopeful" the court would agree with his arguments about the Constitutional separation of church and state and strike down a long-standing Massachusetts state law. The law gives churches the power to prevent the state from issuing liquor licenses to establishments within 500 feet of their buildings.
The Holy Cross Roman Catholic Armenian Church has been blocking the adjacent restaurant's applications for the license since Grendel's Den opened in 1971. The proceedings Monday afternoon marked the latest stage in a five-year legal battle.
"Professor Tribe was brilliant," said William C. Foutz '80, Tribe's research assistant. The third-year law student added that although the questions the justices asked were not directed toward issues. Tribe had anticipated, he "rallied impressively under pressure."
Grendel's Den owner Sue E. Kuelzer also witnessed the presentation and said yesterday "it was like watching the playoffs with the Celtics and Philadelphia." She added she was pleased with Tribe's performance. "We have the best lawyer in the world, so how can we lose?"
Asst. State Atty. Gen. Gerald J. Caruso would not comment yesterday on his own performance, but said of his opponent. "Professor Tribe was Professor Tribe--he was very good."
It was Caruso's first appearance before the High Court and though he said that he did not have the opportunity to make all the points that he wanted to, he remained optimistic. "I think we're going to win," Caruso said, adding, "I always thought we were going to win."
Nine states have identical laws that could be struck down if the Court rules specifically against the Massachusetts statute. If the Court holds that the law is in violation of the First Amendment, however, similar laws prohibiting the sale of liquor in the vicinity of churches in 21 other states could be changed or eliminated, Caruso said last week.