Archive for April 27th, 2012

Book Review – In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices

In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices, edited by Todd C. Peppers and Artemus Ward. University of Virginia Press, 2012. Hardcover, 472 pages. $34.95. ISBN 978-0813932651.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a highly clandestine body, so it is always intriguing to get a peek behind its protective shroud. Todd Peppers and Artemus Ward are veterans of this genre, each having written previous books about the role of law clerks in the operation of the Court. See Todd C. Peppers, Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2006) and Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden, Sorcerers’ Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court (New York: New York University Press, 2006). Joining together, these authors have compiled a group of essays that provide “snapshots” of life as a judicial clerk spanning the history of what they dub the “Clerkship Institution.”  Recommended for academic and court libraries, the collection will be read with interest by court watchers as well as those with a casual interest in the inner workings of the Supreme Court.  

The essays are the work of a distinguished group of scholars and former law clerks. Following an introductory piece on the history of Supreme Court clerkships, the collection is divided into three time periods that highlight the changing role of law clerks as the demands on the Court have increased. The first includes essays on the institution’s “Origins,” beginning with the hiring of the first law clerk by Justice Horace Grey in 1882. Essays on the “Premodern” clerkship include tales of clerking and living with Justice Black and surviving Justice William O. Douglas’ “Boot Camp,” and there are chapters focusing on William Thaddeus Coleman Jr., the first African American Supreme Court clerk, and the first female clerk, Lucile Lomen. Finally, the “Modern” clerkship consists primarily of personal memoirs of clerking at the Court. In total, the essays give detailed accounts of the clerkship experience serving 19 different justices.

As the title suggests, In Chambers is a collection of stories about working as a judicial clerk. Unlike the editors’ earlier books, it is intended less as a scholarly endeavor (though most of the essays are well footnoted with primary source references), but instead an examination of the personal bonds formed between clerks and the justices they serve. And it is indeed the essays that share former clerks’ personal recollections, rather than those written based on diligent research, that are the most enlightening and enjoyable—notably Jesse Choper’s memories of clerking for Chief Justice Warren and Alan Dershowitz’ account of his clerkship for the “restless” Justice Arthur Golberg. Not surprisingly, these revealing discussions are limited to justices who are deceased. Only one essay is about a sitting justice, an essay by Peppers on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg based primarily on his interviews with the justice herself.     

Inevitably, grouping narratives about the clerkship experience leads to some repetition because all clerks, especially in more recent times, have very similar responsibilities. But beyond documenting those commonalities, the stories here provide unique glimpses of justices’ personalities, work styles, and private lives. They also make a valuable contribution to understanding the operation of the Court and the decision-making process of its justices.      

Debbie Shrager is a part-time reference librarian at George Mason University Law Library in Arlington, Virginia. 

Book Review – Special Education Advocacy

Special Education Advocacy, authored and edited by Ruth Colker and Julie K. Waterson. LexisNexis (2011), 746 pages. Softbound, $61.

Special education law is a demanding and growing area of law given the increased diagnoses of disabilities among children, in particular autism. My first introduction to this area of law was in 1997 while attending law school. I secured an internship at a public interest law organization, which led to employment upon graduation. In those early years, my chief legal resources were case files, colleagues, and self-help manuals written for parents of children with disabilities. I often felt like a lost attorney navigating a maze without a map or compass. Special Education Advocacy is an overdue and much needed resource to guide those in that maze.

Special Education Advocacy is a comprehensive resource for individuals representing children with disabilities in special education cases. Although self-described as a textbook, it is more like a combination treatise and practice guide written by several highly respected law school clinicians.

Special education law has a lengthy history consisting of case law and statutory authorities. Special Education Advocacy appropriately begins with a discussion of this history, leading to the present-day principal law governing this area—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA). The chapters thereafter are arranged in a fairly chronological case-management order, from identifying the client to closing the case. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 cover the initial stages of a special education case, including the client interview, investigation process, requisite educational and medical documents, and requesting special education assessments and services. Chapter 5 is the heart of this resource, as true for all special education cases—the individualized education program (IEP). The chapter fully analyzes the IEP process, which includes identifying the players, preparing for the IEP meeting, listing the types of services available, and setting forth the necessary components of the IEP document to ensure IDEA compliance. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 cover particular groups of children, such as children under age three who are eligible for Early Intervention Services, students subject to discipline measures, and dependency children in welfare systems, for example. Chapters 9 and 10 cover dispute resolution and remedies available to students, parents, and attorneys. The last chapter provides guidance to those representing students in the delinquency system who require special education services.

The strengths of Special Education Advocacy come from the fact that it is written by practitioners who use their own experiences and real client cases to convey and illustrate the law, both substantive and procedural. Client cases serve as discussion points and demonstrate the various aspects of special education cases. Sample documents are plentiful: client letters, medical and psychology reports, an affidavit, IEP meeting minutes, IEPs, accommodation plans, a complaint, and a school suspension notice, for example. Templates and forms are also provided, including an intake form, retainer, request for services, referral letter, document requests, case chronology spreadsheet, and eligibility determinations. I was pleasantly surprised to find some nonlaw aids as well. For those advocates with little background in child development and assessments of psychology and educational attributes, the resource provides guidelines for normal development, an overview of the categories of disabilities, and a primer on evaluation instruments including an explanation of standard deviations and errors of measurement.

Supplementing the substance, practitioner tips, and samples within Special Education Advocacy are appendices of the text of IDEA, its regulations, and 13 seminal special education law cases. Its finding tools include a detailed table of contents with chapter outlines, a table of cases, a table of statutes, and an index.

Special Education Advocacy is best-suited for law students, clinical faculty, and attorneys interested in or practicing special education law, specifically in the representation of children with disabilities. Given my own experience practicing special education law, I can say with confidence that it is a must-have resource for both new and experienced advocates. Special Education Advocacy provides the map and compass to navigate this area of law competently and, most importantly, to best serve parents and children with disabilities.

Cindy Guyer ( is a research services librarian at the USC Gould School of Law in Los Angeles.

April 2012

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