There it is, right in the middle of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s just-released opinion in Knox et al v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000:

A quote from a newspaper story and then the citation (alright, footnote): “Marinucci & Wildermuth, Schwarzenegger Adds Prop. 75 to His Agenda, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 18, 2005, p. A-17.”

My mom always wanted me to be a lawyer and I guess this is as close as I’ll ever get.

The story was one of dozens that Carla Marinucci and I wrote, separately and together, about California’s 2005 special election. Even after calling it up online and reading it again, I still don’t really remember it.

My editors at The Chronicle apparently didn’t see it as a likely Pulitzer contender either, given its less than prime placement deep, deep inside the front section.

It’s even a bit embarrassing, given that Alito used the story as part of decision that slammed labor unions and that I’ve been a dues-paying member of the Newspaper Guild, now part of the Communication Workers of America, for better than a quarter century.

The Supreme Court decision making it harder for unions to collect special political assessments from some of its members isn’t that big a deal. Sure, it’s a loss for the SEIU and labor in general, but only on the periphery, since extra assessments don’t happen that often. Alito did make it clear that if it were up to him, every state would be a right-to-work state, but it’s not up to him, at least not yet.

Besides, California unions are a lot more worried about what could happen in November, when a GOP-backed ballot measure tries to ban unions from donating to candidates and collecting political money from payroll dues deductions.

Having my name and my work in the decision, even on the edges, makes me give the decision a second look, though.

After 37 years of writing for California newspapers, seeing my name in print isn’t a surprise. I’ve seen my stories turn up on political blogs, campaign websites, TV ads, billboards and college textbooks. Not to mention innumerable birdcages and most likely a few dartboards.

I’ve had an angry school board president wave a story in my face, sat next to seething politicians as they read a less-than-complimentary piece I wrote about them and even had a guy on his way to Death Row for a double homicide call to tell me how much he liked my stories on the trial (He also said he’d look me up when – and if – he got out so we could work together on the story about how he found Jesus. I’m still waiting).

Still, seeing my name and my work cited in a Supreme Court decision, where it will become part of the nation’s permanent record, is a bracing reminder of the responsibility that, like it or not, as Gavin Newsom would say, falls on all of us who write, blog, tweet, post, opine or otherwise comment on public affairs.

Journalism is often called the first rough draft of history. It’s an instant reaction of a trained observer to events that are taking place in front of him. And while we aren’t filing by telegraph or dispatch or even telephone anymore, the rules are still the same: Get it fast, but get it right, because people out there are going to read it and believe it.

Back in 1975, I was a rookie reporter for the Imperial Valley Press in El Centro when I was sent to Calexico to cover the late-night announcement of the United Farm Workers’ first-ever contract with an Imperial Valley grower.

The speeches and the celebration were in Spanish as well as English, but I took my notes, talked to some folks and headed back to write the story. I then called in a version to The Associated Press office in San Diego.

Less than 20 minutes later, I saw my story come across on the wire machine, just as it was going out to daily newspapers across the United States.

Seeing that story on the Teletype, my stomach dropped. What if I’d screwed something up and every paper in the country was going to print something that was wrong? All because of me.

Well, it wasn’t wrong and it’s a good bet only a handful of papers ever printed it, anyway. But that sinking feeling was a good reminder then and it’s a good reminder today, after seeing a piece of what was a quickly written, no-big-deal daily news story show up in a Supreme Court opinion.

Always be careful what you write. You never know who may be reading it. Or when they may be reading it.

John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.