Meeting the Justices
Peter L. Zimroth, Arnold & Porter (Abe
Fortas, 1967-68): I met Justice Fortas when I was
being inducted as the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law
Journal. He was the speaker at the dinner. I picked
him up at the train station, and all I remember was
that he didn’t have his seat belt buckled, and I said I
wasn’t going to drive the car unless he had his seat
belt buckled. So he buckled his seat belt. There was
no entourage, that’s for sure.
Gregory L. Diskant, Patterson Belknap
Webb & Tyler (Thurgood Marshall, 1975-76):
I clerked for J. Skelly Wright on the D.C. Circuit. He
was the judge in New Orleans who desegregated
the schools. If you know the famous Norman
Rockwell painting with the little black girl in a white
dress walking to school surrounded by beefy U.S.
marshals, Skelly did that. Thurgood Marshall was
the lawyer in that case. … Basically, Thurgood greatly
respected Skelly’s views, so he hired me.
E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Orrick, Herrington
& Sutcliffe (William J. Brennan Jr., 1987-
88): When I was a law student, I worried I was a
mush-minded liberal, and I wanted to see if I could
really stand up for what I believed in. Then-Judge
Scalia [of the D.C. Circuit Court] was very clear that
“if I hire you, you’re my token liberal.” … He also
enjoyed the blood sport: knock-down, drag-out
arguments. You would get back things like: “That’s
the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Where did you
go to law school again?” … [Later], he used to joke
that I’d get the bends going from him to Brennan.
Andrew J. Nussbaum, Wachtell, Lipton,
Rosen & Katz (Antonin Scalia, 1992-93): I
clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the year
before, when she was still a judge. As far as I know,
I’m the only one who clerked for both Ginsburg and
Scalia. My view of clerking was, if one could get a
job with the opportunity to work for a year with a
distinguished judge, why wouldn’t you? … I know
that before Scalia offered me the job, he called
[Ginsburg] and asked her what she thought of me.
Robert J. Giuffra Jr., Sullivan & Cromwell
(William Rehnquist, 1988-89): The Rehnquist
interview process was kind of like going to visit the
Wizard of Oz: You had to go through a lot of doors
to get to where his personal chambers were; finally,
you go to the last door, and the secretary brings you
in, and there he is. The interview was probably 20
minutes. He asked me where I was from, took out
a map, looked at my hometown. Asked if I played
tennis, asked if I had any questions. I said, “No, it’d
be an honor to clerk for you; I’ve always admired
you.” I thought I’d blown the interview. Years later,
I was visiting him at his house at Greensboro,
Vermont. I said, “Chief, I thought I’d blown the
interview.” He looked at me, laughed, and said,
“Well, that was the right answer. What were you
supposed to do, ask me about the pay, or how I
assigned the work to my clerks?” ... He was a very
down-to-earth guy who didn’t like arrogant people.
They’re just like you and me—
Diskant (Marshall, 1975-76): In the clerks’ room,
the three of us shared an office and there were three
desks and a big overstuffed, weathered chair. Maybe
once a day, late afternoon, Marshall would come in.
He was a big man, over six feet tall and very heavy,
and in those days he was a chain smoker, and he
would plop himself down in his chair and tell stories.
Clerks from other chambers would come down and sit
on the floor and listen. They [were about] his father, a
Pullman porter; law school; his early days practicing
law in Baltimore for the Baltimore Afro-American. He
told stories about his life being in danger in the South,
about defending blacks accused of rape or violence.
Lewis J. Liman, Cleary Gottlieb Steen
& Hamilton (John Paul Stevens, 1988-89):
Stevens would come into the clerks’ room before
argument and sit in a comfortable chair and we
would all talk about the legal issues. He would tell
us what thoughts he had. He would bounce ideas
off of us and expected us to respond.
Zimroth (Fortas, 1967-68): Often, Fortas would
just walk into our office and talk to one or the other
of us. There were no group meetings. You didn’t
have to make an appointment to see him.
Rosenkranz (Brennan, 1987-88): Justice Brennan
would do this thing that we used to refer to as
“taking your pulse”: While speaking with you, he
would hold onto your wrist and make you feel like
you were the most important person in the world.
Vincent Levy, Holwell Shuster & Goldberg
(Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2009-10): Ginsburg would
have celebrations for clerks’ birthdays. Her husband
[Georgetown law professor Martin Ginsburg]
passed away the year I clerked. At the beginning of
my term he would bake cakes for the law clerks on
their birthdays. Every cake he made was delicious.