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‘Outside In: The Oral History of Guido Calabresi’

July 13, 2023

Prof. Serena Mayeri discusses a new book about Judge Calabresi at the Legal History Blog, co-managed by Prof. Karen M. Tani L’07, PhD’11.

At the Legal History Blog, Serena Mayeri, Professor of Law and History, penned the eighth in a series of posts in which legal historians reflect on Outside In: The Oral History of Guido Calabresi by Norman I. Silber. 

The Legal History Blog is co-managed by Karen M. Tani L’07, PhD’11, Seaman Family University Professor. Both Mayeri and Tani are former law clerks for the Honorable Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Tani coordinates the Law School’s Legal History Consortium, of which Mayeri is also a member.

From the Legal History Blog:

Oral history is an especially appropriate genre to catalogue Guido Calabresi’s life, not least because it allows readers to see him as a whole person: a masterful storyteller unafraid to draw connections between his own life experiences and his career as a scholar, teacher, dean, and jurist. Outside In is a story of how an immigrant from fascist Italy, an outsider to the ethnic and religious milieu of World War II-era New Haven, became a consummate insider—Rhodes Scholar, Supreme Court clerk, towering academic figure, celebrated professor and dean of Yale Law School, and distinguished federal judge. It’s also the story of a person who brings his whole self to work and strives to make it possible for others in less secure positions to do so.

My first encounter with Judge Calabresi was a clerkship interview more than two decades ago, which began most disastrously when he asked me about a law school paper I had written on a recent Second Circuit abortion clinic protest case. I drew a blank and sat dumbstruck until Guido mercifully changed the subject. Certain I had blown it, I relaxed. We then had a wide-ranging conversation about everything from how someone who is opposed to capital punishment should handle death penalty cases to my family’s Iranian Jewish roots. At the time, I assumed that Guido was lobbing softball questions to put me at ease and avoid further embarrassment. In retrospect, perhaps he (also) was trying to get a sense of how my background and personal beliefs affected the way I thought about legal and moral questions.

Guido modeled how to be one’s whole self at work, in part through storytelling… . 

Read Mayeri’s full piece at the Legal History Blog.