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The Judicial Genealogy (and Mythology) of John Roberts: Clerkships from Gray to Brandeis to Friendly to Roberts


Brad Snyder


University of Wisconsin Law School

December 8, 2010

Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 71, No. 1149, 2010
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1146

Abstract:     
During his Supreme Court nomination hearings, John Roberts idealized and mythologized the first judge he clerked for, Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly, as the sophisticated judge-as-umpire. Thus far on the Court, Roberts has found it difficult to live up to his Friendly ideal, particularly in several high-profile cases. This Article addresses the influence of Friendly on Roberts and judges on law clerks by examining the roots of Roberts's distinguished yet unrecognized lineage of former clerks: Louis Brandeis's clerkship with Horace Gray, Friendly's clerkship with Brandeis, and Roberts's clerkships with Friendly and Rehnquist. Labeling this lineage a judicial genealogy, this Article reorients clerkship scholarship away from clerks' influences on judges to judges' influences on clerks. It also shows how Brandeis, Friendly, and Roberts were influenced by their clerkship experiences and how they idealized their judges. By laying the clerkship experiences and career paths of Brandeis, Friendly, and Roberts side-by-side in detailed primary source accounts, this Article argues that judicial influence on clerks is more professional than ideological and that the idealization of judges and emergence of clerkships as must-have credentials contribute to a culture of judicial supremacy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 96

Keywords: John Roberts, judicial clerkships, Henry Friendly, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, law clerks

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Date posted: December 9, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Snyder, Brad, The Judicial Genealogy (and Mythology) of John Roberts: Clerkships from Gray to Brandeis to Friendly to Roberts (December 8, 2010). Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 71, No. 1149, 2010; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1146. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1722362 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1722362

Contact Information

Brad Snyder (Contact Author)
University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-1015 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://law.wisc.edu/profiles/index.php?iEmployeeID=414
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