Denver Lawyer, A Former Scalia Clerk, Recalls His Late Mentor With Fondness

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Photo: Jameson Jones, Clerk For Supreme Curt Justice Antonin Scalia
Jameson Jones, second from right, clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, center.

Denver attorney Jameson Jones was 27 years old and a year out of law school, when he landed a spot that young lawyers covet -- a law clerk for a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

His boss was Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday.


Jones spoke to CPR News about his experience.

What was your clerkship like?

"Working with him was a great opportunity to work with one of the best legal minds of at least a generation, if not our country’s history. The way he interacted with us in terms of arguing about how cases should be decided, working over the prose in the opinions and also just the friendly nature in which he interacted with his clerks, was more than I could have hoped for."

Scalia had a reputation as formidable legal scholar and an outsized personality -- was it intimidating to work for him?

"No, not particularly. The first time I was on the phone talking about a particular legal question with him, I was intimidated by him. But he had a way of letting you know your legal opinion and your legal analysis were important.

"He enjoyed legal discourse, he enjoyed talking about the legal cases that were before him. He welcomed disagreement. There came a time when you would sit down and write the opinion the way that he wanted it, but some of my favorite times were talking with a justice with the other three clerks about the way a case should be decided."

Was there an interaction with him that stands out in your mind?

"The thing I will probably remember the most is the dinner we had with he and Mrs. Scalia, my wife and the other clerks that year. The warm family atmosphere and interactions with the justice are probably what I will remember most."

Is there anything you remember that might surprise people?

"I think people would be surprised at how warm and gregarious a person he is, how kind he is to people who know him. I think those who know Justice Scalia, even if they disagree with him, like him and respect him. That’s certainly something I took from my year at the court.

Did your clerkship with Scalia shape the way you practice law now?

"Absolutely. It has helped make my legal argumentation clearer, my legal writing more persuasive. When I get up in front of a judge, the fact that I've talked with Justice Scalia many many times about legal issues, it makes many things a lot less intimidating than it might otherwise feel."

You successfully argued a case before Scalia and the Supreme Court a few years ago. What was that like?

"It was an incredible opportunity. It was a chance to go back to that court that I respect greatly and that building, which I have many fond memories of. And to be able to argue in front the justice while he was still on the court and have him ultimately write the opinion is probably the highlight of my career."

You are referring to Justice Scalia in the present tense. Is it difficult to accept his passing?

"It’s really impossible to imagine that court without Justice Scalia sitting there. He was such an outsized presence and person for my life and my career. I am still processing that he won’t be sitting there for the next argument."