Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign memoir, just published today, includes a charming vignette about playing tennis with Chief Justice Rehnquist during his clerkship. Says Cruz, “it was a required part of the job to play tennis with him once a week— Thursdays, without fail, at 11 a.m.”
Cruz is not the first former clerk to report that the Chief restricted his hiring to potential tennis partners. According to one of them, now a professor at Washington University, Rehnquist made the requirement explicit during their interview: “He asked me if I played tennis. ‘One of the things that I ask of my law clerks is that they play tennis,’ he said. ‘Will that be a problem?’”
Has anyone ever considered that the tennis-playing requirement violated the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act? There are many law school graduates each year who cannot play tennis due to physical disabilities. We have all seen excellent students and classmates who overcame serious handicaps and went on to outstanding careers.
One of my best former students is completely blind. He obviously could not have qualified as a tennis-playing Rehnquist clerk. And yet, Richard Bernstein was recently elected to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Perhaps Chief Justice Rehnquist did not actually require tennis-playing from all of his clerks, stories to that effect notwithstanding. Does anyone know if he ever hired a clerk with a disability?
I do know that the ADA – enacted in 1990, well before the Cruz clerkship – is a landmark civil rights statute. Although it does not apply to the judiciary, the principle of non-discrimination is worthy of respect by the judges and justices who must enforce the law.
One hopes that we would eventually reach the point where casual acts of employment discrimination are no longer recalled with such fond satisfaction.