Sorry it has taken us so long. As promised months ago, we now begin our series profiling current Supreme Court clerks (aka the “October Term 2006″ or “OT 2006″ law clerks).
We’ll be going chambers by chambers, starting with the most junior justice. Here are the four law clerks to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:
1. Michael S. Lee (BYU ’97/Benson (D. Utah)/Alito)
2. Christopher J. Paolella (Harvard ’99/Alito)
3. Matthew A. Schwartz (Columbia ’03/Alito)
4. Gordon D. Todd (UVA ’00/Beam)
As a member of the Alito extended family explained to us, here’s the key to understanding the Alito chambers: 3:1. This golden ratio perfectly captures the demographics of the OT 2006 Alito clerks. Consider:
1. Familial status: three are married with children, one is not (Chris Paolella — married, but no kids yet).
2. Undergraduate institution: three are Princetonians, one is not (Michael Lee — BYU).
3. Prior Alito clerkship: three previously clerked for then-Judge Alito on the Third Circuit, one did not (Gordon Todd).
4. Religious affiliation: three are Christian,* one is not (Matthew Schwartz — he’s Jewish).
5. College debate: three were gods of the parliamentary debate circuit, and former presidents of the American Parliamentary Debate Assocation (APDA); one was not (Michael Lee).
But we wouldn’t want such commonalities to overshadow the individuality of these gents. Check out our profiles of Messrs. Lee, Paolella, Schwartz, and Todd — after the jump.
* Mitt Romney footnote: Michael Lee is Mormon, which we consider to be Christian. Presidential candidate Romney hopes that evangelical Christians voting in the Republican primaries will agree with us.
1. Michael Lee (BYU ’97 / Benson (D. Utah) / Alito (3d Cir.))
(a) he is the son of former U.S. Solicitor General Rex Lee, also a member of the Elect (Byron White), for whom Justice Alito worked while in the SG’s office;
(b) he’s the brother of Professor Thomas Lee, yet another of the Elect (Clarence Thomas);
(c) he’s a graduate of Brigham Young University (college), as well as BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School;
(d) Mike Lee served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McAllen, Texas, where he became fluent in Spanish;
(e) in addition to his clerkships with Judge Dee Benson (D. Utah) and then-Judge Alito (3d Cir.), he’s worked for Sidley & Austin in Washington, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah, and as counsel to Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.;
(f) he has a “brilliant legal mind” and an “extremely conservative wardrobe” (surprise surprise); and
(g) he’s the “undisputed King of Karaoke” (okay, that IS a surprise — what songs does he sing?).
Comments (f) and (g) come from Mike Mower, Spokesperson for Governor Huntsman. The ATL default rule is total anonymity for tipsters. But Mr. Mower wanted to go on the record in praise of Mike Lee. He adds:
“We miss Mike. We miss his wife, Sharon, and their three chidlren. We hope they come home soon to the Beehive State!”
(As you can see, we’re missing a photo of Michael Lee — the only Alito clerk we don’t have a picture for. But if you send one our way, we’ll gladly put it up. Thanks.)
2. Christopher Paolella (Harvard ’99/Alito (3d Cir.))
(a) while an undergraduate at Princeton, he was active in New Jersey politics;
(b) he worked for, among others, “gay American” James McGreevey (but was never “Mark Foley’d” by McGreevey);
(c) Chris Paolella was a star of the college debate circuit, which is where he met his brilliant and witty wife, Melissa Bristol Paolella (a former Manhattan prosecutrix, now at the Justice Department);
(d) in addition to clerking for then-Judge Alito on the Third Circuit, Chris also worked as a litigator at Cravath in New York, and Lowenstein Sandler in New Jersey;
(e) Chris and Melissa have two dogs, “Sparky” and “Boomer,” that Melissa regularly takes to obedience and agility competitions;
(f) “they host an annual holiday party featuring a Turducken, shipped in from wherever Turduckens come from, and Chris usually makes a beef wellington” (hey, where’s our invite, Chris?);
(g) Chris and Melissa are both “huge Yankees fans,” and they attend spring training every year (although query whether that will happen this year, with Chris’s SCOTUS duties and all); and
(h) “Chris is one of the greatest baseball hecklers known to man.”
A quick recap from another source:
“Chris Paolella is a fantastically nice guy, conservative but fair-minded and analytical (yes, I meant ‘but’). He’s destined for governor of New Jersey or a 3rd Circuit seat or some such. [Chris and Melissa, who's more liberal than he is,] are quite an intellectual power couple, and good folks.”
3. Matthew Schwartz (Columbia ’03/Alito (3d Cir.))
(a) like Chris Paolella, Matt Schwartz also went to Princeton, served as president of APDA, and was a litigation associate at Cravath;
(b) his college debate experience served him well at Columbia Law School, where he “kicked everyone’s a** in oral arguments in the CLS moot court competition”;
(c) he was also president of the CLS chapter of the Federalist Society;
(d) he’s married to the former Amy Cayne (Fordham Law ’03), and they have a young son named Rush (“don’t question his conservative credentials”);
(e) he has a “secret nickname” in chambers, from the movie Talladega Nights;
(f) he’s a “hardcore Federalist Society-type ideologically, but less in your face than others”; and
(g) he’s a “very decent guy,” who “won’t push his politics on you unless provoked.”
We love that last line. It makes Matt Schwartz sound like a grizzly bear or something: “Won’t attack unless provoked.” It’s also similar to the “conservative, but” comments garnered by Paolella, supra.
4. Gordon Todd (UVA ’00/Beam (8th Cir.))
(a) he went to UVA for law school, but came thisclose to going to Georgetown;
(b) after law school, he clerked for Judge C. Arlen Beam, on the Eighth Circuit;
(c) during his clerkship year in Lincoln, Nebraska, “he attended the tractor pull at the Nebraska State Fair, went to WWF (and made signs) when it made a stop in Lincoln, and went country dancing at a place called Coyote Willy’s nearly every week”;**
(d) he’s also “one of those annoying former high school cross-country runners, whose competitiveness compels him to sprint the last 50 yards of every seemingly leisurely run, even with [companions] who couldn’t keep up”;
(e) in addition to his clerkship, Gordon Todd also worked at the DOJ, where he served as counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, and as special counsel in the Office of Legal Policy for Supreme Court nominations (including Alito’s);
(f) like his Alito co-clerks, Gordon is “quite conservative, and very sharp (as well as a natty dresser)”;
(g) he’s married to Kathryn Comerford Todd, a partner at Wiley Rein & Fielding, and also one of the Elect (Clarence Thomas/OT 2000); and
(h) Gordon and Kate Todd have a “lovely” sixteen-month-old son, Chase.
Here’s a cute little story about cute little Chase Todd (who’s been described to us as a “mini-Gordon”):
“Gordon Todd used to keep a Boppy pillow in his DOJ office for his infant son. Apparently the baby was in DOJ day care and Gordon, would bring him up to his office when he was working late. What a dad!”
The kid has high-powered godparents, too: Wiley Rein partner Margaret Ryan, a Luttigatrix and one of the Elect (yeah that’s redundant), and Michael Collins, of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
With parents and godparents like that, we expect to see Chase Todd appointed a bankruptcy judge before he’s potty-trained.
WOW!!! The four Alito clerks for October Term 2006 are one heck of a group. Like their boss, they’re brilliant and conservative, to a T.
Sure, they’re not the most diverse klatsch of clerks we’ve ever seen. Based on this foursome, the archetypal Justice Alito clerk would look like the following:
(a) a white Christian male, married with children;
(b) a former debater for Princeton;
(c) a solid conservative, but thoughtful and non-abrasive; and
(d) a former clerk to Judge Alito.
Traits (a) through (c), interestingly enough, are all exhibited by Justice Alito himself. And (d) is obviously inapplicable.
If you badly want an Alito clerkship, but don’t fit this bill, there’s hope for you yet. During his many years as a circuit judge, Sam Alito hired a diverse group of clerks. In fact, we can name a bunch of “diversity-enhancing” ex-Alito clerks off the top of our head: Nora Demleitner, Michael Martinez, Katherine Pringle, Hannah Smith, and Cheryl Stanton.***
So just cross your fingers, and send in that Alito application! All it takes is 60 cents and a dream.
Alternative Ten-Point Plan for Landing an Alito Clerkship: (1) convert to Christianity, (2) undergo a sex change, (3) get enough Botox to make you look like a high school senior, (4) forge a college admissions application, (5) get into Princeton, (6) join the debate team and become president of APDA, (7) attend a top law school, (8) graduate at the top of your law school class, (9) land a clerkship with a conservative feeder judge, and (10) get married and have a kid. What could be easier?
** A SCOTUS-clerk-to-be doing country dancing? To quote that dearly departed (but brilliant) TV show, “The Comeback”: “I don’t need to see that!”
*** These are just the “diverse” Alito clerks we could remember right now; we didn’t bother with any research. Feel free to add more such Alito clerks in the comments. Has Samuel Alito ever had an African-American clerk?
(Yes, we’re scary and stalkerish this way. Our recall of names and faces could be better; but we are GREAT at remembering which judge or justice you clerked for.)
Local accepts job to become Alito’s law clerk [Daily Herald]
Governor’s counsel will clerk for U.S. Justice Alito [Salt Lake Tribune (conduct archive search; fee)]
Todd ’00 Earns Clerkship with Justice Alito [via TJ's Double Play]