7th Circuit, Clerkships, Federal Judges, Job Searches, Kathleen Sullivan

Rejection Letter Of The Day: You Can’t Clerk For Me Because… I’m Quitting!

Staci here. We’re sure many of you have applied to clerk for or have actually clerked for federal appeals court judges. We’re sure that waiting for a response after you submitted all of your paperwork was simply agonizing.

If you got the job, congratulations; we bet you were absolutely elated. If you got rejected, you might have been disappointed. But if you got a rejection letter like the one we’re about to show you, you must’ve been downright, well, confused. While we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in federal clerkship rejection letters — see, e.g., here and here — we’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

This is something we think you’re going to want to take a look at. Call it “rejection via resignation”….

A tipster reached out to us after receiving this letter from Judge John Tinder of the Seventh Circuit. You may remember the good judge from managing editor David Lat’s long-form interviews with the judge during the days of Underneath Their Robes (see here and here). For the record, His Honor buys his ties at T.J. Maxx. Anyway, check out his rejection letter:

Says our tipster: “Maybe I missed something in my Google search, but I do not believe he has made this decision public yet.”

Nope, you didn’t miss anything. This information has not yet been made public — until now….

Lat here. I reached out to Judge Tinder last Friday, but we weren’t able to connect at that time. It was a busy day for him: he was on the panel that heard oral argument in NCR Corp. v. George A. Whiting Paper Co., a clash of the Biglaw titans that pitted Kathleen Sullivan, name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, against Evan Chesler, chairman of Cravath Swaine & Moore.

I spoke with Judge Tinder this afternoon by phone. He began by confirming the accuracy of the information contained in his clerkship rejection letter. (He added that he was not soliciting applications at the time our tipster applied, and his OSCAR posting indicates he’s not currently accepting applications.)

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Judge Tinder, with a good-natured chuckle. “I wanted to give clerkship applicants some guidance about my future plans while holding off on a public announcement for a little bit longer. But it looks like you found out — as you always do — and here we are!”

(Did you hear that, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Legal Policy? You’ll have another Seventh Circuit vacancy to fill in 2015.)

Judge Tinder plans to continue hearing cases through February 2015, which is when he’ll turn 65 and become eligible for retirement pursuant to the so-called “Rule of 80.” Under this policy, a federal judge who’s at least 65 years old and has at least 15 years of active service as an Article III judge can leave active status and still receive full pay, whether as a completely retired judge or a judge on senior status (a semi-retirement typically involving a somewhat reduced caseload). Judge Tinder, who has served as an Article III judge for a total of more than 25 years — first on the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, then on the Seventh Circuit — easily satisfies the rule’s requirements.

So around February 2015, Judge Tinder will stop picking up new appeals and turn to finishing up work on his still-pending opinions. He hopes to retire completely from the Seventh Circuit sometime in the spring of 2015. He does not plan to take senior status; rather, he will step down from the bench completely. What does he plan to do after departing from the court?

“I’ve got some hazy concepts in my mind, but no definite project,” he said. “I’ve been a judge since 1987 and U.S. Attorney prior to that, so it has been a while since I’ve been in the private sector. I don’t aspire to build a clientele or start a practice at this point in my career, but I can think of things I’d enjoy doing in public interest, advocacy, or arbitration. But I don’t have a particular target, just some vague notions that I will explore closer to the time.”

Serving as a federal appellate judge is many a lawyer’s dream job. Why would Judge Tinder want to step down from the bench?

“We have a wonderful court, full of really smart and collegial people, tackling the most interesting issues,” he said. “It will be hard to leave. But I just got to a point where I thought about whether I’d like to target what Bill Bauer [Judge William Bauer] is doing at 88, handling a full caseload, and I thought I’d like to try something different. It has been fascinating to serve on this court and on the district court before that.”

Thank you, Judge Tinder, for your many years of judicial service, and best of luck in your next endeavor, whatever it might be!

Questions Presented: Judge John D. Tinder!!! (Part 1) [Underneath Their Robes]
Questions Presented: Judge John D. Tinder!!! (Part 2) [Underneath Their Robes]

Earlier: Rejection Letter Potpourri: It’s Not You, It’s Me, And How Many Awesome People Want To Work For Me
Rejection Letter Of The Day: You’re Not Prestigious Enough To Clerk In My Less-Than-Prestigious Court

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