Honors Course Reflections

Emily Calomino: Blog 2







Excerpt from typed page: ...Justice complains that it is the undue burden test that is crested "out of whole cloth." [word crossed out, replacement indistinguishable] as is, the Chief ["Judge" crossed out, "Justice" handwritten] sites no support for his implicit [indistinguishable word] that regulations and prohibitions are subject to two different standards of review. If the undue burden test is made out of whole cloth, it at least provides more protection than the Chief Justice's "new clothes." In reality, the Chief ["Justice" crossed out] would have women sit shiv'sh -- the Court having overruled Roe, all that remains is the unveiling... Handwritten note at bottom of page: *I guess I got so angry by the end of the draft that I subconsciously denoted him.

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.


Typed note dated June 16, 1989: Mr. Justice, [indistinguishable case reference; As you know, Justice O'Connor has [indistinguishable word] the [indistinguishable word] change that she makes is to withdraw her [indistinguishable word] in Part [indistinguishable part] of the Chief's opinion. She now [indistinguishable word] no [indistinguishable word] grounds from the Chief's analysis of [indistinguishable words], the [indistinguishable word] not counseling [indistinguishable word]. Perhaps it would be useful to send around a [indistinguishable word] confirming that, in light of the [indistinguishable word], you [indistinguishable word] Part I of Justice O'Connor's opinion. Her [indistinguishable word] notes Justice O'Connor's [indistinguishable word] does not, but should, reflect that Justice Stevens has joined Part I. Her clerk is aware of the error and will correct it on the next circulation. Alas, Justice Scalia's clerk tells me that the [indistinguishable words] will arrive this morning. Eddie

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.
Seven students and Professor Kobylka are in the planking position facing the camera. The Supreme Court steps are in the background.

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.

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