Kelsi Brown Corkran, Former Law Clerk to Ruth Badger Ginsburg Spoke at Lynn
By: Connor Markey, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Getting a law degree is the end goal for many law students, but for Kelsi Brown Corkran, the Supreme Court Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, it was just the beginning of a much greater career.
A former law clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Badger Ginsburg, Corkran has given crucial legal counsel on several precedent setting Supreme Court cases in recent years, with notable examples including Torres v Madrid, and Taylor v Riojas. On November 9th, she shared her knowledge with Lynn students during one of Dr. Watson’s Dialogue Speaker Events.
“I do civil rights litigation, I focus almost exclusively on the Supreme Court,” said Corkran, describing her job. “I’ve been practicing for about 18 years now.”
As the Supreme Court Director, Corkran is responsible for overseeing cases brought before the Supreme Court, however this comes with its own unique set of challenges unlike other legal cases.
“I probably have to learn the area of law for the first time,” said Corkran. “I just argued a disability discrimination case in the Supreme Court last month. Before last March, when I got into this case, I had not done disability discrimination before, so I kind of rely on people in that community who are already experts. I’m very aware when I’m representing and giving a voice to a community that I’m not a part of, that I have a lot of learning to do before I can do that responsibly.”
Corkran also mentioned how this lack of expertise can make it easier to view things from a justice’s perspective.
“You would think that as you go up the Supreme Court, that having expertise in this subject is what you need, but it’s actually not true, because you need to be a little bit further back from it in order to be able to see it the way that the justices are going to see it.”
While only having spent a year working together, Corkran and Ginsburg become well acquainted, with the latter inviting the former out to birthday events, as she has been known to do for her law clerks. Corkran shared a few thoughts about the late justice’s passing, and what legacy she left behind on the world.
“She did a lot of dissenting, particularly in the last decade when she was on the Supreme Court,” said Corkran. “The nature of a dissent is that is not the law, and she had what she described as the dissenters’ hope, which is the idea that by laying out what should have happened in writing, she was providing, kind of a blueprint for future generations to go back and change the law. I like to think that maybe not in my time, but in yours, those blueprints that she was writing provide a map for getting to a more just legal system. I don’t think that because she passed away her impact has stopped. She did a lot of work that we will continue to incorporate for a long time.”