Professors Help Separate Fact from Fiction in Off-Broadway Play about Supreme Court Clerks

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In presenting a play that centers on two U.S. Supreme Court clerks, the producers of “A More Perfect Union” felt the play’s conclusion could begin a lively audience discussion about the issues it raised.
And who better to dissect the play and help lead those discussions than former clerks on the high court?
Among them were some Columbia Law School professors, including Associate Professor Jamal Greene. He found the audience at the performance he attended “informed and engaged with the play and contemporary issues.”
Greene, who clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens, saw his role, in part, as a way to “give the audience a sense of what was fiction and what was not.”
In the fiction column, Greene said: the play’s implication that clerks hold much sway over their justices regarding what cases are heard and how opinions are written.
“A More Perfect Union,” written by Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen, ends its off-Broadway run June 7. It focuses on James, a black liberal from an upscale Atlanta suburb, and Maddie, a white Jewish conservative from Cleveland. They work for justices with similar political views. Soon, opposites attract. They consummate their relationship and start sharing information to influence their bosses while some messy personal and work issues get in the way.
“In both cases, their views were very much determined by their own histories,” said Professor Daniel Richman, who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Richman noted the play helped provoke a discussion on how “anyone’s personal history can and should affect they way they think about constitutional issues.”
Indeed, the professors’ involvement came at a propitious time. Greene and Richman led their discussions after Justice David Souter announced his retirement, but before President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Souter.
“The play … posed some really tough questions about the relationship of law and people responsible for trying cases,” Richman said. “The discussion was a nice vehicle for people in the audience to think more about those issues and take them home with them.”


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