According to Gooding, Clay v. United States (1971) was one of the few cases where the law clerks played a particularly
important role: a 5-3 ruling upholding Ali’s conviction became a 8-0 ruling overturning it.
Helm (Burger 1983-84): The Chief wanted to
make sure you knew that the clerks were clerks
and the justice was the justice. The Brethren by
Bob Woodward had portrayed clerks as if they
were in charge and the justices were along for
the ride, and my speculation is that he was
reacting to the sources for that book—which
were mostly clerks. After the first few weeks, he
started to let his guard down.
Haddad (Brennan 1986-87): Brennan called
us in and addressed us sternly. “There’s one rule
in this chamber you all need to follow.” Our bodies
went on alert. “One of you has to arrive before 8
a.m. to get the coffee pot going.” The rule was
one of the great joys of clerkship because it meant
you were there meeting with him for an hour
every morning, and it was a privilege to do so. The
morning coffee ritual often involved visits from
former clerks or judges or his friends.
THE OTHER EIGHT
A time-honored tradition is clerks
lunching with, and getting to know,
the other justices.
Gregory Dovel, Dovel & Luner;
Intellectual Property Litigation (Antonin
Scalia 1987-88): Justice Brennan was the
most striking. He was warm, had a broad
smile, and was very funny. He had a habit
of putting his hand on your arm. He had a
genuine interest in people.
Haddad (Brennan 1986-87): Justice Thurgood
Marshall was the most incredible raconteur I’ve ever
heard. He told one hysterical story after another.
Klaus (Kennedy 1995-96): Chief Justice
Rehnquist was a man of routine. We’d heard we’d
lunch at The Monocle and he’d order a Monocle
burger with cheese and a Miller Lite, which he
did. He shared stories of when he was a law clerk
and how the court had changed. Justice Scalia’s
favorite restaurant was the A.V. He was in fine form:
gregarious, telling lots of stories. He’d order pizza
with anchovies, and you had to eat the anchovies. On
the walls were photos of politicians and dignitaries.
He said, “You’ll never see my picture on the wall. You
know why? Because I don’t want someone pointing
to it in 50 years and saying ‘Who was that guy?’”