New York appellate attorney Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick shares what he learned from Justice Brennan.
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I’d say two things. As a judge, the most important thing I learned from him was how to count to five. One of the very first things that he did when he brought new law clerks in was to talk to them about the importance of counting to five. And he would say, “You can’t get a damn thing done in this building unless you can count to five.” And what he meant by that was understand where each of the Justices are coming from. If this needs to be an equal protection case, for Justice Blackman throw in strands of equal protection even though you think it’s a due process case. And I brought that with me in my career. Every single time I think about the strategy of a Supreme Court case, I am counting noses and figuring out angles to get that one extra vote.
But as much as he taught me about being a judge or being an appellate lawyer, he taught me more about being a human being. This was a guy who just was practically saintly in his interpersonal relations. He would talk to the gardener and know everything there was to know about his life as much as he talked to the Chief Justice of the United States. He had this amazing warmth that just exuded every time he came in contact with someone, and when you were in the room with him, no matter who you were, you felt like you were the most important person in the world.