Journal of Supreme Court History
Most of what we know about law clerks comes from the clerks themselves, usually in the form of law review articles memorializing their Justices and their clerkships or in interviews with reporters and legal scholars. In a few instances, however, law clerks have contemporaneously memorialized their experiences in diaries. These materials provide a rare window into the insular world of the Court. While the recollections contained in the diaries are often infused with youthful hero worship for their employer—in contradistinction to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s claim that no man is a hero to his valet— they offer a real-time, unfiltered peek at the personalities who populated the bench and the issues with which the Court was grappling. Just such a snapshot in time is provided by the diary of Chauncey Belknap, a remarkable Harvard Law School graduate who clerked for Justice Holmes during October Term 1915. Through Belknap’s near-daily records of his clerkship, as well as his encounters with the glittering social set of pre-war Washington, we are permitted a singular and fascinating glimpse into the colorful experience of working for one of the Court’s most famous jurists.
Todd C. Peppers et al., Clerking for God’s Grandfather: Chauncey Belknap’s Year with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 43 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 257 (2018).