Check out the woman at right. She is the Honorable Dolores K. Sloviter, and she sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Judge Sloviter seems like a kindly old lady, doesn’t she? We’ve seen her on the bench, at multiple oral arguments. Based on her grandmotherly appearance, we once quipped to a colleague: “She seems so nice! When is she going to descend from the bench and feed us homemade cookies?”
Answer: not anytime soon (unless the cookies are laced with arsenic). From one of Judge Sloviter’s former clerks, Professor Mike Rappaport:
In 1985, having just graduated from law school, I arrived for my first day of work as a law clerk to Dolores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit….
My two co-clerks, who had arrived a week earlier, took me to lunch. I asked how things were going, and they looked kind of uncomfortable. They explained that on their first day, a week earlier, they had gone to lunch with the holdover clerk, and had asked her, almost making small talk, how her year had been. [T]hey listened as she spent the next hour and a half detailing the horrors of the experience, and how she wasn’t sure how she had gotten through it.
That law clerk’s year of hell turned out to be quite similar to our year….
(That’s just an excerpt. You can read the entire post by clicking here.)
But should any of this come as a surprise? As regular ATL readers surely recall, Dolores Sloviter is the alleged inspiration for the nightmarish Judge Helga Friedman, central villain of Saira Rao’s delightful new novel, Chambermaid.
Additional thoughts on hellacious clerkships, plus a call for reader tips, after the jump.
This raises the more general issue of how clerkship applicants can avoid [abusive and nightmarish] judges, or at least know what to expect if they accept clerkships with them. One possible way is to talk to the judge’s former clerks. Unfortunately, however, ex-clerks have strong incentives to avoid saying anything negative about their judges. Even if the judge is a complete troll, his or her name is going to be listed on the ex-clerk’s resume for years to come, and prospective employers are likely to call up the judge for a reference….
Another potential source of information is ex-clerks for other judges on same court…. Unlike criticizing your own judge, commenting negatively on another judge isn’t likely to cause serious damage to an ex-clerks’ career prospects. Therefore, you have a better chance of getting an honest answer.
There are probably other ways to get information on judges’ treatment of their staff. But I can’t think of an equally promising one that is likely to be readily available to clerkship applicants.
Never fear, Above the Law is here! We’re happy to serve as a clearinghouse for your clerkship horror stories.
Email us with your tales of clerkship woe. We will confirm that you actually clerked for the judge in question (or were otherwise properly situated to acquire such dirt). We will then post your horror story, but without identifying you as our tipster, per our standard procedure. (Of course, if you for some bizarre reason WANT to be credited, we can do that too.)
Judges are public figures, and they’re used to being criticized. But sometimes even judges sue for libel. So — and this should go without saying — only send us stories that are TRUE.
Please send your stories of clerkship hell to us by email (subject line: “Clerkship From Hell”). Thanks!
The Clerkship from Hell [The Right Coast]
Judicial Clerkships From Hell [Volokh Conspiracy]
Chambermaid: A Novel [Amazon.com]