In 2007, Stephen Shackelford spent an afternoon with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Harvard Law School graduate was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. It’s a tradition for justices to get to know their colleagues’ clerks. Ginsburg did it by inviting them to her chambers, for tea.
Shackelford — now a Westport resident, and RTM District 8 representative — has fond memories of that day, and of watching the well-respected justice interact with her colleagues (and his boss) that year.
After her death yesterday, news stories have focused on several aspects of her style on the bench. She was “rigorously analytical and very hard-working,” Shackelford says. “She expected excellence.”
She spoke deliberately, he adds. There were long pauses during that tea, but she was very open with the clerks. It was clear she loved both the law, and her job.
“Justice Breyer loved her” in return, Shackelford says. “He had such strong respect for her. I think all the justices did.”
In fact, Shackelford notes, Ginsburg’s much-noted friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia was very real.
The year Shackelford clerked for Breyer, his justice and Ginsburg “lost a record number of 5-4 decisions,” he says.
However, the 9 justices “never got acrimonious or personal.” He thinks part of that was due to the example Ginsburg and Scalia set.
“She saw him as far more than his judicial positions. She saw him — and her colleagues — as real human beings. That was so important for everyone to see.”
(Hat tip: Frank Rosen)