The Columns

Alum Releases Book about Supreme Court Law Clerks

— by on April 6th, 2012

Timing is everything, and the release of Todd Peppers’ new book about Supreme Court justices and their clerks comes at a time when the court is very much in the headlines.

Peppers, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1990, is a visiting professor of law at W&L and the Henry H. and Trudye H. Fowler Professor of Public Affairs at Roanoke College.

He is co-editor with Artemus Ward, of Northern Illinois University, of “In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices” (University of Virginia Press).

The essays in “In Chambers” are written by former law clerks, legal scholars, biographers, historians and political scientists. They provide the inside stories of clerking in the Supreme Court. Todd has two original essays in the book, including one based on an interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

According to Todd, “The book focuses on the personal and professional bonds that form between Supreme Court justices and their clerks.  Essayists include former W&L law dean Randy Bezanson (writing on his clerkship with Justice Blackmun), United States Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (writing about his clerkship with Lewis Powell), and Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz (on his clerkship with Arthur Goldberg).  Other justices who are the subject of essays include Horace Gray (the first justice to hire a law clerk), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Louis Brandeis, Harlan Fiske Stone, Felix Frankfurter, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and William H. Rehnquist.”

In addition to reflecting the personal experiences of the law clerks with their justices, the essays reveal how clerks are chosen, what tasks are assigned to them, and how the institution of clerking has evolved over time, from the first clerks in the late 1800s to the clerks of Ginsburg and the late Rehnquist.

An Associated Press review of the book in The Washington Post noted: “Without a doubt the best parts of the book are the behind-the-scenes descriptions of life at the court: Justice Hugo Black cooking breakfast for the two clerks that lived with him during the 1953 term, Justice Byron White engaging in in-office golf putting competitions with his clerks, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist putting together NCAA betting pools and taking walks outside the court with his clerks.”

Todd’s 2006 book along the same lines is “Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk” (Stanford University Press).