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Dozens of clerks for former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren are working on an oral history of their behind-the-scenes experiences at the court. University of California, Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office recently began recording the memories of several of Warren’s clerks. While the organizers won’t divulge tidbits from the interviews until the project is completed and released to the public — perhaps as soon as next year — the hope is that Warren’s former employees can provide context for the court’s biggest decisions, as well as insights into the justice himself. UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law emeritus professor Michael E. Smith, who clerked for Warren when the court heard Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, remembers the chief justice as a gregarious and generous boss. “Every Saturday when he was in town and not strictly obliged to do something else, he would take [the clerks] to lunch,” Smith told The Recorder in an e-mail last week. “We ate at a very pleasant club to which he belonged,” he said, adding that their conversations delved into topics besides work, including Warren’s political life in California, where he served as governor from 1943 to 1953. “He was a very important figure in my life, and in the country’s life,” said former clerk Jesse Choper, who suggested the project. “Clerks are beginning to expire. I figured this might be a good opportunity to get their recollections,” said Choper, a former Boalt dean and the school’s current Earl Warren Professor of Public Law. Sixty-two men clerked for Warren during his 16 years on the Supreme Court, from 1953 to 1969. Of the 55 still living, more than 30 have agreed to participate in the project to date, said Laura McCreery, who’s directing the project. Some of the interviews are local to the project site, UC Berkeley. Four of Warren’s former clerks are on Boalt’s faculty, including Choper and Smith, as well as emeritus professors I. Michael Heyman and Phillip Johnson. But the project will draw from voices across the country. Two participants from Florida and Indiana, for instance, clerked for Warren when he authored the unanimous opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483.

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