Monday, November 18, 2013
You Did Not Receive This Call
When the law clerks finished their clerkships with the Judge, it was like watching the chicks leave the nest. And, she always was proud to see where they landed. Most left her chambers to take jobs at private law firms, many in major cities across the country; from New York City to Chicago to Dallas to Washington DC. And, many of them took positions with the government in agencies like the DOJ (Department of Justice), SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), and FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Others became AUSA's (Assistant US Attorneys) in various states. We even had a few at the White House in different legal positions.
We kept in touch with most of them. Many would call just to check in. If anything of interest happened (she was involved in a high profile case, for example) they would call. Often if one was getting married, I would get a call, "Do you think she would perform our ceremony?". (The answer there was always, you know she would be thrilled to.)
One morning I answered the phone and one our clerks, working at the White House at that time, was on the line. After exchanging pleasantries, he said, "Listen, you are on to get a phone call from someone in the West Wing this morning. Just do what he says. And, do not under any circumstances, let any know you received this call." "You mean the Judge will get the call." (Often the Judge and I was were referred to as "you".) "No, this call is coming to you."
After I hung up the phone, it dawned on me, dear Jesus, she was being considered for the Supreme Court. Her name was always thrown around as a possible candidate, but the White House threw out all sorts of names just to keep the press interested and at bay. We just laughed about it. In her humble way, she was always flattered to be named, but could not imagine any serious consideration.
Sure enough, less than five minutes later the phone rang. When I answered it, this polite but business like voice introduced himself and said, "Judge Williams needs to be in Washington at 10:00 am tomorrow morning. We already have her cell phone number. Tell her to expect a phone call at that time for directions of how we will handle it from there. No one is to know she is in Washington, no one in her chambers, no one in her family, not even her husband, and, no one is to know you received this phone call. Do you understand?" All I could get out was, "Yes Sir." After I hung up, I looked at my phone as if it were going to self destruct like a Mission Impossible tape.
When the Judge walked in from her Rotary Meeting, she just looked at me and I could tell from her look that she knew. I just said, "Yes, someone called me." "Just get me there." "I will," I assured her. She walked back to her office. Then it dawned on me, I would get her there, but I was not sure how in the Hell I was going to be able to. I got online and looked for a suitable airline ticket to DC that afternoon.
About that time, one of the law clerks sauntered up to my desk and asked what I was doing. This was a normal question, that would usually evoke a smart ass response on my part, like, "Making a reservation for the Judge to go to DC to interview for the Supreme Court." I wasn't willing to that chance, so I weakly said, "Checking the weather," and I quickly closed the airline screen. After he left my desk, I realized this clandestine job was going to take more scheming than I thought.
Ten minutes later, I yelled down the hall, that I needed to run an errand and asked them to cover the phones. I got in my car, drove around the corner, and found a parking space. From there, on my cell phone, I made the Judge's travel reservation, had them send me an electronic confirmation to my personal email, and went back to my desk. Knowing she was probably wondering what was taking me so long, I went down the hall to talk with her. When I walked in her office, I saw a look of total confusion on her face. "I am so nervous, I cannot even log into my computer, please tell me how I can make it through the most important interview of my life?" I assured her that she could and would come through in flying colors, otherwise they would not being calling her.
As I started telling her about her travel plans, a law clerk came to the door. She always had an open door policy - something I'm sure she questioned the wisdom of that afternoon. "Judge," the law clerk asked, "you wanted to discuss this case for court week?" She gave me a look that said, 'I'll get with you later' and very calmly, in her normal cheery voice she told him to come in. As I walked out, they started an in-depth discussion of the a very iffy legal question.
She made it safely to DC the next morning. Before her flight, she called me from the airport, "I know I forgot to pack some vital piece of my wardrobe or my shoes won't match. It was all I could do to get my things together in my bag." "Bag," I asked, "One bag?" "Well, I told my husband I was going to stay with the grandchildren, so I couldn't justify any more luggage." The fact that she only had one piece of luggage was scary in itself. We spoke several times that afternoon and evening. Afterall, the law clerk at the White House and I were the only ones who knew where she was and the only ones she could discuss it with.
The next morning when I got to chambers, I stuck with the cover story that she was keeping the grandkids. I followed up with some bit about her daughter having to leave at the last minute on a business trip. One law clerk looked at me and quipped, "Well, if she's not there, the only other place she could be is in DC interviewing for the Supreme Court." I swallowed hard and laughed, "Yeah, right. What did you have in your orange juice this morning?" Everyone had a good laugh and we all went to our desks to start another "regular" day, whatever that meant.