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'I Respect Him Enormously,' Ex-Law Clerk On Supreme Court Nominee


Upon hearing the news that President Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, here's how one legal mind reacted.

SAM ERMAN: I was elated. I respect him enormously. It made my whole morning to hear that this had happened.

MONTAGNE: Sam Erman teaches at the University of Southern California Law School. In 2009, he became Judge Garland's clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He's also clerked for Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy. I ask him what it was like to work closely with Judge Garland.

ERMAN: I've never met someone with as much integrity as Judge Garland has. One story I like to tell about him is right before I started clerking, my wife and I found out we were about to have our first child, and I imagined this might be disruptive because Chambers is a very small and intimate place.

And so when I called and told the judge, I called with a little bit of anxiety in back of my head. And he made it clear that this was nothing but good news. He was enthusiastic and supportive all the way up until our son Elijah was born. When I go and visit him now, if I don't have Eli and the two girls we've had later, he's always sure to remind me that next time if I brought what he sometimes refers to as his grand clerks along, he would be very happy to see them, too.

MONTAGNE: It must have come up that you clerked for Judge Garland, especially - obviously, in your world. What is the reaction?

ERMAN: It's the one line on my resume that repeatedly jumps out at people, right? That people see it and they say oh, Judge Garland.

MONTAGNE: Even though you've clerked for Supreme Court justices.

ERMAN: Yeah, I mean - so the Supreme Court justices get noticed because they're Supreme Court justices and lots of people have strong views about this and that Supreme Court Justice. And so in some ways, what they say can be a Rorschach test for their own thinking about courts in law. What's remarkable about when people note that I clerked for Judge Garland is the uniformity of the response, which is everybody always says he's a really good judge. We need more like him.

MONTAGNE: Sam Erman teaches at the USC Gould School of Law. He was a clerk for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland back in 2009. Thank you very much for joining us.

ERMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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