I first met John Noonan at a Law Review dinner when I was a year or so out of law school and he was a third year student. Chance placed us at the same table, and the conversation—naturally—proved to be more interesting than the speeches. When I came home and reported on the occasion to my wife, it developed that she was already acquainted with John Noonan. When they were teenagers, he had been a particularly suave and glamorous summer inhabitant of a beach resort where one of her friends also spent summers.
Not long after the Law Review dinner, John graduated and went to Washington, and we left Boston, first for New Jersey and then for Notre Dame. I heard nothing more of John until one day when Joe O'Meara, the formidable dean of the Notre Dame Law School, showed me an article from the 1955 volume of the Journal of Legal Education called Value References in the Teaching of Negligence. The author had looked at all the Torts casebooks he could find, and earlier editions of many of them; at all the relevant case write-ups from the Harvard Law Review and the Yale Law Journal; at a number of law school examinations; and at all the issue sheets used by Harvard's Board of Student Advisors in supervising their moot court, the Ames Competition. He had found the value concerns in great disarray, and not much relied on anyhow. It was clear that teaching about negligence involved analysis of rules and not much else. The author (of course, it was John) admitted reluctantly that neither philosophy nor theology nor social science provided any principles that would be of much use in deciding negligence cases, but he expressed a rather wistful hope that more facts might lead to a more effective application of values to these cases. “More facts” was to be a major distinguishing quality in the rest of his work.