[in case of a disagreement] is convince him to
put a question mark beside something. That was
considered a big success.
Guynn (Rehnquist, 1985-86): Rehnquist was
very particular: no footnotes unless absolutely
necessary, and [opinions] should be less than 20
Levy (Ginsburg, 2009-10): October comes and the
first cases are heard. More and more work just piles
on through the end. It becomes busier and busier,
and then you leave.
THE BIG CASES AND EVENTS:
Former clerks are reluctant to talk
about specific cases they worked on,
or the justices’ behind-the-scenes
opinions; but the historic moments were
Davis (Stewart, 1970-71): The year I clerked,
there were a number of important cases: the
Pentagon Papers; the Muhammad Ali case; Swann
v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, an
important busing case; and Younger v. Harris, an
important federal-courts jurisdictional case. I can’t
think of a case where I was uncomfortable with
what Justice Stewart was proposing to do.
Ira M. Feinberg, Hogan Lovells (Thurgood
Marshall, 1973-74): The last case of my year
came up quite suddenly: the Court wound up
holding oral arguments in July, which was very
unusual. The case was U.S. v. Richard M. Nixon,
where the Supreme Court determined he had to
turn over these tape recordings, which he did not
want to turn over, and which led to his resignation
about three weeks later. I remember Justice
Marshall coming back from conference and telling
us what the result was going to be.
Rosenkranz (Brennan 1987-88): The year before
me was Bowers v. Hardwick, the sodomy case, which
got overturned a bunch of years later. There was a
protest on the steps of the Supreme Court, the “out
and outraged” protest, where thousands of people
came to the Supreme Court from all over the country;
several hundred [were] arrested. I was talking to
Brennan about it and I could tell—he was 81 years
old, a pretty devout Irish-Catholic—that he could
not for the life of him figure out what two men were
doing together in bed. He didn’t quite understand
the mechanics. But what he understood was human
relations, and intimacy, and the power of love, and the
importance of those relationships in living a full life.
Alexander J. Willscher, Sullivan &
Cromwell (Anthony M. Kennedy, 2001-02):
The main thing that happened was 9/11. I remember
there was a judicial conference there—a lot of judges
from around the country being hosted for an event
that day. Then the news came on about the first
tower. They evacuated the whole Capitol Hill area,
including the Supreme Court. The clerks convened
at other people’s apartments and watched in horror.
It was full-on lockdown mode. There are court
security officers, and their primary responsibility was
to make sure the justices were safe, and then to get
everyone else out of the building. [A few months
later] there was an anthrax threat. The entire court
relocated to the D.C. Circuit for at least one round of
oral arguments. It was like going on the road. There
were at least three justices and their clerks sharing
one D.C. Circuit judge’s chambers. We were all in
close quarters. They had to do the scrubbing of the
building before it was safe to go back in.
Some clerks recall rivalries between
justices and clerks; others say mutual
admiration among the justices
Liman (Stevens, 1988-89): The first term that
I was there was a very contentious term. There’s a
book about it, Closed Chambers, by Edward Lazarus.
It was Justice Kennedy’s second term on the court,
a time when the court was reconsidering a lot of
doctrines in civil rights law, criminal procedure, the
death penalty, abortion and the First Amendment. It
was the beginning of the period when the court starts
to move toward the right, and that led to tension.
There were definitely some clerks who had very tense
relationships with other clerks. I personally didn’t.
Samuel Spital, Holland & Knight (John Paul
Stevens, 2005-06): Just from reading the opinions,
people might not realize how much collegiality there
is on the Supreme Court. They were very respectful of
each other behind closed doors.
Guynn (Rehnquist, 1985-86): We had a basketball
tournament. My recollection is the Rehnquist clerks
won. The biggest mistake is we should have bought
a trophy. If we’d been willing to spend $50, when we
got back 10 years later, we’d see our names on the top
with 10 other chambers. Unfortunately, we were too
cheap to do that, so it never happened.
Now about that letter of