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The Supreme Court Comes To Westport

Abe Fortas (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Abe Fortas (courtesy of Wikipedia)

As Sonia Sotomayor prepares for next week’s confirmation hearings, 1 Westporter’s thoughts turn to another Supreme Court justice.  As with everything else in the world, there’s a Westport connection.

Adam Stolpen — an attorney and local resident for over 50 years — spent many weekends with Abe Fortas and his wife Carol at their Minute Man Hill summer home.  Fortas was a Supreme Court justice from 1965 until 1969, when — after being nominated by Lyndon Johnson to replace Earl Warren as Chief Justice, yet not receiving Senate confirmation — he resigned under pressure.

“Abe would work around the house, while Carol — an Arnold & Porter senior tax partner — gardened at their 19th century farmhouse at the very top of the hill,” Stolpen recalls.

Nearly every day,  the couple walked to Compo Beach.  They’d drink martinis, swim in the Sound, and get burgers and dogs from Chubby Lane’s (the concession stand prior to Joey’s), Stolpen says.

Sometimes they were alone.  Often, they brought high-powered Washington guests.   Justice William O. Douglas and his wife visited; so did Isaac Stern.   Lyndon Johnson came too, Stolpen says, though not while president.

When the Fortases moved from Westport, they offered to sell their large farmhouse on Minute Man Hill — with water views and several acres — to Stolpen.  The price:  $60,000.

He declined.

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