Alex Kozinski, Clerkships, Fabulosity, Federal Judges, Feeder Judges, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, John Bash, Law Schools, SCOTUS, Solicitor General's Office, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Clerks

Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Color Commentary on the October Term 2012 Class

While we wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — by the way, live audio or video coverage would be nice — let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, with coverage of the latest Supreme Court clerk hiring.

We’ll start with some analysis of the October Term 2012 law clerks, now that we know who they are, and then show you the updated law clerk lists for OT 2012 and OT 2013….

For purposes of this numerical analysis, we’re treating law clerks to retired justices just like law clerks to active justices. In case you’re wondering, clerks to retired justices generally get “adopted” by the chambers of an active justice and therefore get to work on SCOTUS cases. Clerks to retired justices also assist their retired bosses with speeches, book projects, and cases that the justice might hear while sitting by designation on a circuit court (as Justice O’Connor does quite a bit). It’s our understanding that clerks to retired justices usually get offered the gigantic law firm signing bonuses offered to the clerks to active justices (but if we’re wrong about this, please let us know).

Here are the law schools with more than one graduate clerking for the Court in October Term 2012:

Yale: 10 (8 if you don’t count the retired justices’ clerks)
Harvard: 7
Stanford: 5
NYU: 3
Chicago: 2
Columbia: 2
GW: 2

And here are the feeder judges with more than one law clerk at the Court in OT 2012:

Griffith: 5 (4 if you don’t count the retired justices’ clerks)
Tatel: 4 (3 if you don’t count the retired justices’ clerks)
Garland: 3
Katzmann: 3
Kavanaugh: 3
Kozinski: 3
Wilkinson: 3
Sutton: 2

That’s the statistical analysis. We’re not great at math, so please correct us if we’re wrong (by email or in the comments).

Now, some random tidbits of commentary:

  • Congratulations to GW Law on placing two of its graduates into OT 2012 clerkships. As noted by Dean Paul Schiff Berman, this is the first time that GW Law will have two law clerks at SCOTUS in the same Term.
  • And congratulations to Judge Thomas Griffith (D.C. Cir.), who is emerging as a major feeder to both conservative and liberal justices. Judge Griffith was once identified by The New Republic as one of D.C.’s “most powerful, least famous people” — and if he keeps up his record as a feeder judge, he’ll continue to enjoy this designation. (Placing clerks at the Court is one way for lower-court judges to extend their influence and build large networks of high-powered former clerks.)
  • It’s interesting to note that Justice Scalia, who almost always has at least one Harvard Law School graduate as a clerk, has no HLS clerks for OT 2012. But Justice Kagan more than makes up for him: the former HLS dean has three Crimson kids in her chambers for OT 2012.
  • Dave Denton (Harvard 2011 / Wilkinson), one of Justice Kennedy’s incoming clerks, happens to be the son of a judicial superhottie, Judge Reena Raggi (2d Cir.; formerly E.D.N.Y.). It’s interesting to note how many children of Article III judges go on to clerk for the high court; the legal genius apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! (Other examples, just off the top of my head: William Levi, son of former judge (E.D. Ca.) and current Duke Law dean David Levi, who is currently clerking for Justice Alito; Porter Wilkinson, daughter of Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Cir.), who clerked for Chief Justice Roberts.)
  • High-powered lawyers, the kind who once clerked at the Court themselves, also seem to spawn an unusually high number of SCOTUS clerks. For example, Lauren Willard (UVA 2011 / Kozinski) is the daughter of Steptoe & Johnson partner Richard K. Willard, who clerked for Justice Blackmun in OT 1976 — the same Term that Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (9th Cir.) clerked for the Court. And Judge Kozinski and Richard Willard both clerked for then-Judge Kennedy on the Ninth Circuit from 1975 to 1975. What a small legal world! (For other examples of father/daughter SCOTUS clerk pairings — e.g., Carter Phillips and Jessica Phillips, Rebecca Tushnet and Mark Tushnet, Martha Minow and Newton Minow — see this WSJ Law Blog post.)
  • Joshua Geltzer (Yale 2011 / Kozinski), one of Justice Breyer’s incoming clerks, is a past winner of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch (LEWW). Not only is he brilliant and handsome (I’ve met him in person), but he’s also married to Container Store heiress Katherine Boone. Josh Geltzer laughs at your paltry $280,000 clerkship bonus!
  • Another former LEWW winner is Claire McCusker Murray (Yale 2009 / Kavanaugh), an incoming clerk to Justice Alito.
  • And clerking for Justice Alito in OT 2013 is Zina Gelman Bash (Harvard 2007 / Kavanaugh), who also won LEWW with her hunky husband, John Bash (who bills out at $640 an hour at Gibson Dunn, even though he’s just an associate; of course, that’s just a third of the $1,800 an hour that GDC partner Ted Olson charges — and that clients eagerly pay).
  • Wondering about the designation of Brian Burgess (NYU ’09 / Calabresi / Tatel / Quasi-Bristow), one of Justice Sotomayor’s incoming clerks, as a “Quasi-Bristow”? A tipster passes along some fun trivia about Burgess, including an explanation of this title: “Yes, that’s right: Brian clerked for Guido, then Tatel, and then became Don Verrilli’s ‘special assistant’ (a sort of fifth Bristow; the position was established by then-SG Kagan, and is on its way out now that she’s gone). Funnily enough, there is a Duke ’09 grad (Sonja Ralston) who did the Tatel / Calabresi thing in the opposite order. In other words, she and Brian both graduated in 2009, started clerking, and then switched judges in the summer of 2010.”

Now, on to the updated lists of law clerks for October Term 2012 and October Term 2013….

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