Cass Sunstein Remembers Thurgood Marshall

You clerked with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. What was he like?

He was very, very quick. He had a sense of the human reality of the cases, which he could size up in an instant partly because because he had been a trial lawyer. He was a repository of experience such as the human race rarely has. In the sense that he had been a lower court judge, a Supreme Court justice, solicitor general of the United States and the most successful supreme court advocate probably in the court’s history—at the point when the court was arguably more significant than at any time in the nation’s history.

So he argued and kind of conceptualized Brown v. Board of Education and he had at the top of his mind, it seemed, stories and anecdotes about the early civil rights days. He knew Martin Luther King, he had been on the phone with Roosevelt. He knew Johnson very, very well. He knew the Kennedys. So he was like a walking history book. But also someone who could read a brief and say, “I know what’s really going on here.” And there were some cases where the briefs wouldn’t capture what he knew was going on. And he would ask us, why don’t you do a little digging. And he was always right.

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein, interviewed by Matt Phillips in Quartz.

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