As news of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement spread, The Recorder reached out to his former clerks across California for their takes on the judge, his announcement, and his judicial legacy. Here’s what lawyers who worked for the justice had to say in the hours after his announcement.


David Anderson, Partner, Sidley Austin (1991-1992)

“Never once in a year of working with him did I ever see Justice Kennedy lose his cool. In my experience he was unfailingly decent and devoted and kind. He loved being a lawyer. He loved being a judge. And these things were obvious about him from almost the first moment I met him.”


Ashutosh Bhagwat, Professor, UC Davis School of Law (1991-1992)

“While I completely understand Justice Kennedy’s desire to retire after 30 years of service, I am sad for the court and for this country. I did not always agree with him, but I had no doubt Justice Kennedy always acted in good faith. And in my opinion, he was the only justice left on the court who was not at heart a partisan. Unless President Trump nominates someone like him, which I surely do not expect, I fear that the court will go the way of Congress and become just another hyper-partisan, dysfunctional institution. Dark thoughts, but this is a dark day.”


Kathryn Haun, General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz (2004-2005)

“Although most people focus on the critical role Justice Kennedy occupied on the Supreme Court for 30 years, he is also an absolute gem of a human being and has been an incredible mentor to many of us who were fortunate enough to call him boss. I wish him and Mrs. Kennedy all the best in this new chapter.”


Joshua Patashnik, Associate, Munger, Tolles & Olson (2012-2013)

“He said [in the statement announcing his retirement] that he wanted to spend more time with his family. This is one instance where that’s actually true. … I don’t think he was somebody who wanted to be on the court until he passes away. … He took the court in the direction where it ended resolving a lot of important, highly salient political questions. In so doing I think he contributed to putting the court into the center of our politics. Maybe the court was headed in that direction anyway, but that will be part of his legacy, for better or worse.”


Zachary Price, Associate Professor, UC Hastings School of Law (2005-2006)

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity he provided to me, and he impressed me as someone with profound reverence for the law and the Constitution who carried his responsibilities with great thoughtfulness and dignity. His pivotal vote on the court has had a profound impact on the shape of the law over the past 30 years and I suspect it will leave a lasting legacy, no matter who Trump appoints to succeed him. His retirement does, however, give Trump the chance to cement a conservative majority on the court in the years ahead.”


Mark Yohalem, Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson (2006-2007)

“Justice Kennedy inspired in me, and in many others, a love for the rule of law as not merely the impersonal operation of positive law, but a common ground and welcoming space in a diverse and sometimes divided nation. This was more than the predictable and impersonal operation of positive law; it was a concept that embodies justice for all and respect for each.”

“One particular incident stands out in my memory. Justice Kennedy was set to speak to a group of visiting foreign legal scholars in one of the Supreme Court’s two conference rooms. I mistakenly led him to the wrong one, in which a large group of high school students was waiting impatiently for one of the court’s docents to come speak. Rather than sneaking out of the room, Justice Kennedy walked in, sat down with the high schoolers, and spoke extemporaneously on our nation’s traditions of equality under the law, due process, and intellectual freedom. As I anxiously checked my watch, he held the room riveted, then thanked the students for the opportunity to speak with them and left to go to the other conference room. On the way, he thanked me as well, and said that speaking with young people was one part of the job that he most loved. He then went and conversed with the academic dignitaries with the same friendliness and openness. I hope, too, that in his retirement he is able to enjoy the same rapport with people of all backgrounds, particularly young people, for his sake, for their sake, and for ours.”