In 1995, I had been out of law school for nine years. It was in April of that year that I had the opportunity to be sworn into the Supreme Court of the United States. My former boss, Judge Allen Sharp of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, invited any of his former law clerks that wanted to be sworn into the Supreme Court to do so that spring. Several of us did just that. On that day, we were all escorted into the Supreme Court and sat on the left side of the courtroom. As I looked at the nine chairs that were situated behind the bench and in front of a curtain, I expected to see nine uniform chairs. However, the chairs, all which were black, were of different sizes and shapes. When the bailiff announced the opening of that day’s court session, I expected the justices to walk single file from one side of the bench in a dignified manner to stately assume their positions. However, what was most shocking was that each of the nine justices burst through slats in the curtain behind their chairs, much like a sports team busts through a paper hoop to enter a stadium.
The first order of business that day was to admit the applicants as new members of the United States Supreme Court bar. As Chief Justice Rehnquist rotely went through this repetitive exercise, which perhaps he did at least on a daily or weekly basis, he never looked up. In fact, seven of the other eight justices never looked up either. There was just one justice that was looking down on the new admittees, warmly smiling and making eye contact with us: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Whether she did this because she was a newly appointed justice and still genuinely enjoyed this ceremony, having just ascended to the bench two years before, or because she was seated right in front of us, I do not know. What I will always remember from that day, probably more so than the other things, is the way Justice Ginsburg looked at us with a big smile and engaging eyes. While I may or may not have agreed with all of her many opinions written from the high bench, I will always remember Justice Ginsburg making a young lawyer feel welcome in the nation’s highest court.
May you rest in peace Justice Ginsburg.
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