Brandeis and His Clerks


The latest issue of the Journal of Supreme Court History (v. 34, no. 1) has yet another article about Brandeis. (Too bad these articles aren’t being posted on the web.) This one is about his relations with his law clerks. Author Todd C. Peppers used unpublished interviews with the clerks, letters written by Brandeis and other reminiscences to recreate what it was like to clerk for the judge. The job sounds like it was vastly different than it is now. Brandeis always got by with one clerk, who spent most of his time cloistered away in Brandeis’ apartment, away from the other justices and clerks. Besides helping Brandeis prepare his opinions, other duties included answering his mail, doing research (one clerk recounted having to look at every page in over 60 years of the Senate Journal) and acting as bouncer at Mrs. Brandeis’ tea parties. (Those parties must have been wilder affairs than I had realized.) Despite the hard work and isolation, the experience created a lifelong attachment in most of the clerks and their memories provide a fascinating look at the private life of the man.

And, while this isn’t exactly Harlan related, there is also in the same issue an article about Harlan’s hero Henry Clay and his relationship with the Supreme Court. Another good read for people interested in Ketucky legal history.

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