What was it like clerking for both Justice Brennan and Justice Scalia?

New York appellate attorney Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe discusses what he learned from clerking for two Justices with two very different ideologies.

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Well, so Justice Scalia used to joke that I was gonna get the bends going from him to Justice Brennan. And it turns out I survived. You know, the job of a law clerk is to give the Justice honest views about the case and to be a sounding board. Justice Scalia made no bones about the fact that I was his token liberal. He brought me in, he said, because he wanted the debate. Sometimes I thought it was really ’cause he just loved the blood sport of me against all these conservative law clerks. So it was great fun and every once in a while you could sort of shape the way he thought about a case.

But you asked about writing opinions. When it came to writing opinions, your job is to channel the Judge or the Justice. And so, to me, the real fun and the challenge when clerking for then Judge Scalia was channeling his voice and his way of thinking about cases. He has been one of the most brilliant writers on the Court, and I learned a lot about the style of writing from him. And then writing for Justice Brennan was quite a bit more natural because it resonated with me ideologically, but he wrote in very different prose than Judge Scalia. So the challenge of the law clerk really is to suppress ego and be kind of a spokesperson for the Judge or Justice himself.