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Washington—During an oral argument in the October 1999 term, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist gave a note to a page for his clerk assigned to the case being argued. The note said, “Jay, I think the answer to this question is in Volume . . . , page . . . ,” recalled Jay Jorgensen, now a partner at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. “I went back to his office and found it was this very early, old, old book. Right on the page he suggested was the answer. The Supreme Court had addressed this question before. “I asked him later, ‘How could you remember that?’ His answer was, ‘I remember reading it in law school.’ That was 30 years before the event and he remembered the volume number and page.” A number of the high court’s justices are “super-human smart,” according to Jorgensen. Rehnquist was a “genius,” he said, adding, “His own particular brand of smartness was the ability to remember everything.” Jorgensen believes that is the reason Rehnquist had a reputation for working faster than anyone else at the court. “When he sat down to dictate an opinion, you never saw him surrounded by books searching for an opinion. He would just write it. I’ve never seen anybody else like that.” Jorgensen shared his recollections of Rehnquist last week as former clerks gathered from around the country for the chief justice’s funeral. The funeral was more celebratory than funereal, some of them said afterward, “a lot of laughter, a lot of tears,” according to Joseph L. Hoffmann of Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, a fitting sendoff for a man who, despite a stern demeanor on the bench, had such a funny and warm personality in private. A game of charades For Richard Garnett of University of Notre Dame Law School, there is the indelible memory of Rehnquist crawling on the floor and under furniture during a game of charades while acting out the movie title, Saving Private Ryan, and silently mouthing, “Bang, bang.” “Another clerk told me the chief had done charades with his group too and it seems no matter when he was playing charades, the chief always found an excuse for crawling on the ground,” said Garnett. Hoffmann said he will always remember Rehnquist’s lack of pretentiousness. “The combination of the court’s general secrecy and his own personal unwillingness to put on airs made for almost an anonymity in him that was unbelievable,” he explained. “I was there for the last year of the Burger Court. It didn’t matter where Burger was, but you knew this was someone important because of the way he talked and acted. My boss was the opposite. “He looked like the average guy and he acted that way with everyone. I remember him hanging out with the messenger who delivered messages between chambers, just sitting around talking and having a good time together.” ‘Personal sense of loss’ As he was in the court building last week while Rehnquist’s body rested in state, Garnett met a court police officer who had risen through the ranks since Garnett’s clerkship and whose daughter was now in law school. “He just started talking about how much advice the chief had given him over the years and how the chief had gotten the police pay equity with the Secret Service,” said Garnett. “He just loved the chief. At the staff level at the court, there is a personal sense of loss.” Rehnquist led “one of the most balanced lives for a man of his position,” said Mark Stancil of Baker & Botts, an October 2000 clerk. “It was really impressive to see how he could balance life, work and family. I’m certainly not that good at it,” Stancil said.

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