Note from Rehnquist Clerk
Well, today we flew home to Dallas and I could not help but reflect on the week during the flight. From the beginning and its confusion to the end where I felt like a seasoned professional in the Manuscript Reading Room calling boxes, organizing papers, and taking notes. The incredible thing about this trip was to see how the Supreme Court actually operates and to witness the internal divisions and communications between and about the justices. One thing that shocked me was the way the law clerks spoke about other justices and how much ‘gossiping’ takes place between clerks of different justices. For example, while editing a draft of Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey
, Steff, his law clerk, noted her frustrations with the case, specifically with Chief Justice Rehnquist and her subconscious demotion of him. Another example comes from Eddie, Justice Blackmun’s law clerk, who writes a memo to Blackmun discussing Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
and how the expected “Ninogram” will arrive in the morning. This is an rather interesting given the casual nature of discussion between Justice Blackmun and his clerks, especially on how members of the Court will behave. These little comments cast a humorous light on the nature of the Court and how justices perceive each other.
Memo from Blackmun Clerk
Another interesting aspect of our research was seeing the development of the opinion writing. It is comforting to know that even brilliant Supreme Court justices go through several drafts of opinions with red ink to correct misspellings, grammatical errors, and sentence structure. In particular, Justice Blackmun never found a draft he could not mark up with corrections, whether he wrote it or not. It may seem trivial but seeing how a draft looks at the beginning of their process to the final published opinion is sometimes a drastic change. The level of detail that the clerks and Justices put into the word selection of their opinions and analyzing drafts for deciding whether or not to join certain parts is incredible. Some memos only offered certain word changes which made the difference between whether a Justice joined the opinion or not. This is something that one can only see by going to the Library and calling a box.
Planking at the Supreme Court in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s birthday
Perhaps, my favorite part of the trip came in the way the class, as a group, banded together to get through a grueling week of research and still have a great time. Being able to discuss certain findings, ask questions about the papers themselves, and offer words of encouragement to a fellow classmates made the trip enjoyable. Time outside of the library at dinner, on the metro, or during a rousing game of Secret Hitler injected humor and friendship into the long, quiet hours of research. From planking at the Supreme Court for RBG’s birthday to Mission Impossible: Find Paxton’s Phone to worrying about whether we lost Grayson, this group was a major part of what made this trip a once in a lifetime experience. Knowing that eight hours of research and analyzing ended with a fun dinner around town and a board game at the luxurious Comfort-Inn Ballston made the experience unique and bearable.