Justice Roger J. Traynor was born in Utah in 19001 the son of a miner and drayman. He left after high school to undertake undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, eventually earning (simultaneously) a Ph.D. in political science and a law degree from Boalt Hall, the university's law school. He practiced law for just a few months, then returned to the university to teach in its political science department. A year later, in 19301 he joined the law faculty, where he worked until his appointment to the California Supreme Court in 1940. He became chief justice in 1964, retired in 1970 and died in 1983.
Justice Traynor's obituary in the New York Times said he "was often called one of the greatest judicial talents never to sit on the United States Supreme Court and was voted one of the nation's outstanding judges whenever his professional colleagues were polled:' Other tributes spoke of him as "the ablest judge of his generation," and "an acknowledged leader in every field that he touched:' These memorial statements merely confirmed a long-standing reputation. Walter Schaefer, another great state supreme court justice, said in 1961 that Justice Traynor was, and had been for many years, "the nation's number one state court judge:' Five years later, Schaefer "removed the state court qualification."
Schaefer called Justice Traynor "a judge's judge," but he was also a law professor's judge, not least, perhaps, because he had been a law professor himself and went about his judicial work in a famously scholarly way. He published law review articles regularly throughout his years as a judge and wrote judicial opinions that still figure prominently in law school casebooks-especially those focused on contracts, torts, and choice oflaw. He built personal and professional relationships with law professors, and - of particular interest here - relied on them to recommend law clerks for his chambers.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Brandel, Roland E. and James E. Krier. "Clerking for Roger J. Traynor." In Of Courtiers & Princes: Stories of Lower Court Clerks and Their Judges, edited by Todd C. Peppers. Constitutionalism and Democracy. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020.