Helm (Burger 1983-84): Keeton v. Hustler
Magazine was a personal jurisdiction case
regarding whether Hustler could be sued in New
Hampshire. The day of the argument four or
five limos pulled up, and Larry Flynt emerged
in a gold-plated wheelchair. I heard that when
he got to the security checkpoint, he or one of
his bodyguards was carrying a handgun. In the
middle of oral arguments, Flynt pulled open
his shirt, revealing a T-shirt that said ‘Fuck the
court.’ Burger responded dryly, “Please escort
Mr. Flynt from the courtroom.”
Poon (Scalia 2000-01): Bush v. Gore was an
Pepper-infused, weeks-long exercise for most if
not all of the clerks. I was no exception. I recall
at least one night when my three co-clerks
and I walked out at 2 a.m. and into a sea of
blue lights from police vehicles and barriers
surrounding the court.
Levin (Ginsburg 2004-05): U.S. v. Booker
was a criminal case that had a major impact
on federal sentencing guidelines. Van Orden v.
Perry concerned whether a monument of the Ten
Commandments displayed at the Texas State
Capitol violated the Establishment Clause of the
Klaus (Kennedy 1995-96): Romer v.
Evans declared a Colorado amendment
unconstitutional; it was the first major case
involving the equal protection rights of
Ziffren (Warren 1965-66): Miranda v.
Arizona. At the outset of the term, the Chief
had us gather all the court cases where
someone had confessed, and put together a
chart with graphs that had the case name,
jurisdiction, salient data, and whether there
were issues other than the confession. There
were probably several hundred that we
charted and categorized. This was before
computers; this was all manual. Then the
Chief called a special Saturday session and
the justices went through them and chose four
cases to be argued before the court on the
same day. Miranda’s name was first on the list.
We received dozens of amicus briefs on the
cases. When it came time to draft the decision,
the Chief picked himself to write it—and we
had a session with him, which was unusual,
in which he put together a 10-page outline of
what he wanted to see in the decision. Each
clerk took a section to write up.
Spending a year in the presence of
such justices inevitably influences the
way attorneys practice law and live
Dovel (Scalia 1987-88): I thought I was really
smart. Then I’d present something to Scalia, and
he’d go, “Hmm, what about this?” His ability to
dissect and look for weaknesses was extraordinary
and absolutely influences the way I practice the law.
Spiegel (White 1976-77): When you’re an
advocate, it’s easy to fall in love with your ideas
and arguments. So it’s really helpful to see how
those arguments are received in such a setting.
Levin (Ginsburg 2004-05): Ginsburg was an
incredibly careful lawyer about facts and getting it
right. She was also humane, caring about the effect
rulings have on the parties, and on other cases.
Poon (Scalia 2000-01): Justice Scalia really
taught me how to parse legal texts closely,
and make the plain meaning of that text the
lodestar of analyzing a particular legal issue
or case. That rigorous approach to the law was
complemented by the justice’s time-honored
tradition of “booking” a draft opinion: having a
wooden cart filled with bound volumes of the
United States Reports wheeled into his office,
next to his leather sofa, and going through, side-by-side with one of us, each of the case citations
A phone call from Scalia to Justice Byron “Whizzer” White left law clerk
Gregory Dovel open-mouthed and ready to disappear from the room.