On Wednesday, February 13th, Professor Laura Ray
spoke to faculty and staff about how Justice John Paul Stevens might have been influenced by the Supreme Court Justice he clerked for, Justice Wiley Rutledge. She noted that much had been written about how some Justices might be influenced by their law clerks, including former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s 1957 U.S. News and World Report
article “Who Writes Decisions of the Supreme Court?” Instead of taking that angle, however, Professor Ray sought instead to examine if clerking for Justice Rutledge had influenced Justice Stevens.
Professor Ray opened with brief biographical sketches of both Justice Rutledge and Justice Stevens, emphasizing the differences in their upbringing. She then spoke about how Rutledge used his clerks, noting that he wanted “Someone who would share the ideas of a different generation.” Stevens too seems prefer a more personal relationship with his law clerks, taking on fewer than he is entitled too. Professor Ray offered a number of other similarities between the two Justices as well, observing that both men are distinguished as authors of dissenting opinions, known for writing their own first drafts, and having an interest in individual rights.
Professor Ray offered a fascinating look into the relationship between a Justice and his law clerks. The presentation prompted a variety of engaging questions that led to further discussion and debate.
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