5th Circuit, Clerkships, Department of Justice, Federal Government, Federal Judges, Job Searches

Want to Clerk for the Judge Who Took on Obama?

Judge Jerry Smith

Above the Law readers weren’t particularly fond of Judge Jerry E. Smith’s “homework assignment” for the U.S. Department of Justice. In a reader poll, about two-thirds of you expressed disapproval of the Fifth Circuit ordering the DOJ to submit a three-page letter discussing judicial review. (The order came in the wake of, and in apparent response to, unfortunate comments on the subject by President Obama.)

But let’s say that you’re among the one-third of readers who view Judge Smith as courageous for calling out a former Con Law professor for making misleading statements about judicial review (statements that, in fairness to the president, he subsequently clarified). Let’s say that you’d like nothing better than to clerk on the Fifth Circuit for Judge Smith.

Well, aspiring law clerks to Judge Smith, there’s something you should know….

A law student tipster wrote us as follows:

Given Judge Smith’s recent high media profile, I thought you guys might be interested to learn: he’s hiring! But as is befitting a judicial iconoclast, he isn’t going to hire the way some muckety muck thinks he should be hiring.

Our source passed along Judge Jerry Smith’s official clerkship posting (note that it differs in minor respects from his OSCAR listing). Under the “Description” section, His Honor ladles out the judicial sauce:

Status: Available
Clerkship Term: 1 Year
Term Start: August 15, 2013
Term End: August 14, 2014
Accepting Applications: Apr 09, 2012 – Jul 09, 2012
Interview Dates: Upon receipt of application. Interviews are underway.


I do not follow the unofficial and totally voluntary “hiring plan.” No judge, law school, student, or professor is bound by that plan. If law professors refuse to provide early recommendation letters, I will consider the application without them. A list of grades can be submitted if an official transcript is not available. Send LSAT score (official form not required). I have already received many applications from qualified applicants. The exact starting and ending dates for the clerkship are flexible depending on individual needs and preferences. I have all positions still open for my 4 clerkships.

If you’re wondering what to submit for your writing sample, I hear that a three-page, single-spaced letter about the evils of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan would go over very well.

Also worth noting: Judge Smith wants your LSAT score? The LSAT is intended to serve as a predictor of law school performance, but it seems to me that the best indicator of law school performance is… law school performance.

In fairness to Judge Smith, he’s not the only employer who’s interested in your LSAT. See also, e.g., K&L Gates. And this isn’t the strangest thing I’ve seen in the federal judicial clerkship process. Asking for an LSAT score isn’t as unusual as, say, making clerkship applicants take a trivia quiz test of general knowledge, which is what Judge Danny Boggs (6th Cir.) famously does.

Judge Smith has taken a lot of flak lately, but if you’re interested in clerking (which is an amazing experience), you should consider applying to him. I have several friends who are former Smith clerks — including law professors Ilya Somin and Stephen Henderson, both quoted in this positive piece about the judge — and they have great things to say about their former boss, as both a jurist and a person.

Protip: don’t wear your Obama 2012 button to the interview. And if Judge Smith asks for your opinion of judicial review, say that you’re in favor. Good luck!

Jerry E. Smith, Federal Judge Upset By Obama’s Supreme Court Comments, Defended By Colleagues [Huffington Post]
2012 Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan [OSCAR]
Quiz Show: Take the Danny Boggs Trivia Challenge! [Underneath Their Robes]

Earlier: Attorney General Eric Holder Responds to Judge Jerry Smith’s Homework Assignment
Benchslap of the Day: Fifth Circuit Orders DOJ To Write ‘We Respect Judicial Review’ in Three-Page Letter
K&L Gates Still Cares About Your LSAT Score

(hidden for your protection)

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