Feeder Judges

To all of our law student readers who are in the middle of hunting for federal judicial clerkships, good luck. Right now we are at the height of clerkship application season, at least for those judges who follow the official (but non-mandatory) law clerk hiring plan. For those judges who follow the Plan to the letter, this past Friday at noon was the first date and time when judges could contact third-year applicants to schedule interviews, and this coming Thursday at 10 a.m. is the first day and time when judges can interview and make offers to 3Ls.

That’s for judges who follow the Plan with maximum strictness. But how many judges actually do that?

Let’s discuss how the clerkship process is unfolding this year — and hear from those of you who are going through it….

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Left to right: Bryan Garner, Antonin Scalia, and Richard Posner

The jurisprudential wrestling match between Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Richard Posner is quickly turning into a WWE tag team battle royal. Tagging in to help Justice Scalia: Bryan Garner, one of the foremost authorities on legal writing and legal language. Professor Garner, of course, is Justice Scalia’s co-author on Reading Law (affiliate link).

Professor Garner is not happy with Judge Posner’s treatment of the book. Let’s hear what he has to say — and also speculate on how the Posner/Scalia tiff might affect Posner’s feeding of law clerks to Scalia….

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

In case you missed it, you should check out Judge Richard Posner’s recent review of the new book by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, Reading Law (affiliate link). The review is deeply thoughtful and elegantly written, but a bit… harsh. It’s a definite reverse benchslap.

And it’s just the latest blow in an ongoing slugfest between Judge Posner and Justice Scalia, which we’ve chronicled in our pages. In June, Judge Posner criticized Justice Scalia’s dissent in Arizona v. United States. In July, Scalia saucily responded by saying of Posner, “He’s a court of appeals judge, isn’t he? He doesn’t sit in judgment of my opinions as far as I’m concerned.”

Ouch. These exchanges got me (and others) wondering: What’s going on between these two eminent jurists?

I reached out to both Justice Scalia and Judge Posner with this question: Is it personal?

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Scalia to Posner: You're not the boss of me!

Over the years, Judge Richard Posner (7th Cir.) has sent a number of his clerks to the chambers of Justice Antonin Scalia. Query whether Judge Posner’s record as a feeder judge to Justice Scalia will be impaired by the recent sniping between them (or by Judge Posner’s ideological drift; as he recently told NPR, he has grown less conservative “since the Republican Party started becoming goofy”).

Last month, Judge Posner expressed misgivings over Justice Scalia’s impassioned dissent in Arizona v. United States, a high-profile case about immigration. Judge Posner questioned the “famously outspoken” justice’s decision to include complaints about illegal immigrants in his dissent, suggesting that such discussion might be more appropriate for a campaign ad than a judicial opinion.

In a recent interview, Justice Scalia benchslapped back — hard. What did he have to say?

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Last month, we reported on the continued unraveling of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”). We cited, as evidence, the recent announcement by Georgetown University Law Center that it would be diverging in certain respects from the Plan.

Now another top law school — a top, top law school, one that sends many of its graduates into clerkships — has joined Georgetown in departing from the Plan. And the school’s dean has offered a full-throated defense of the decision to diverge.

Which school are we talking about? And is its argument persuasive?

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Over the past few days, we’ve received numerous emails from our readers asking about the fate of the Clerkship Scramble. This website, a popular read among the clerkship-crazed (we count ourselves in this camp), went offline sometime last week, on or about July 4. If you go to its former address, you’ll encounter this message: “Sorry, the blog at clerkshipscramble.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.” The site archives are gone, and they don’t seem to be available via Google Cache either (at least not on a comprehensive basis).

The Clerkship Scramble has been gone for just about a week, and readers already miss it. Fans have described it to us as “very useful,” “a promising site that filled a much-needed information gap,” “the best unofficial resource for law students applying to clerkships,” and “so good!” The site maintained data about clerkship placement rates by law school, compiled rankings of Supreme Court feeder judges, offered advice about the application process, and broke clerkship-related news (such as Georgetown Law’s decision to abandon the Law Clerk Hiring Plan).

So what happened to the Clerkship Scramble?

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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….

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It seems that Supreme Court clerks are having a moment right now. They’ve made the pages of New York Magazine. They’re getting profiled by Thomson Reuters. They’re being nominated for ambassadorships (before even hitting age 40). They’re the subject of a new book edited by Todd Peppers and Artemus Ward, In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices (affiliate link; I have a review copy and am looking forward to reading it).

And why are SCOTUS clerks in the limelight? One reason is that they are privy to some serious secrets. The entire nation is eagerly anticipating the Obamacare decision — and they know how it’s going to come out.

No wonder a “no guests” policy has been instituted at the SCOTUS clerk happy hours. The pressure to keep the Obamacare secret — but also to spill it! — must be mind-blowing.

Some of the current clerks are married; do you think they’ve been able to resist telling their spouses? If a clerk goes out for drinks with friends and gets a little tipsy, might he spill the beans? If a clerk has brunch with her parents on Sunday for Father’s Day, and Dad speculates about how the case will come out, could the clerk’s telling facial expression reveal the ruling? [FN1]

If I were one of the Elect this Term, I’d never leave my apartment except to go to work, and I’d set my email auto-reply and voicemail greetings to say the following: “Please be advised that I will be completely unavailable — for in-person meetings, telephone conversations, or any other type of contact — until June 25, 2012. Thank you for your understanding.”

This brings us to today’s topic: the latest news in Supreme Court clerk hiring. Which lucky (and brilliant) young lawyers will find themselves at One First Street for October Term 2012?

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Last year, the law clerk application process was chaotic — perhaps even more chaotic than usual. The disarray even made the pages of the New York Times.

One of the driving factors behind the chaos was the growing number of judges who do not follow the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”). Of course, the Plan is entirely voluntary, as certain judges like to emphasize. But following it — at least by a critical mass of judges, especially feeder judges on the Second Circuit and the D.C. Circuit — can provide some measure of order to an otherwise shambolic process.

This year, look for the disorder to grow. At least two top law schools are not following the Plan….

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Judge Paul Watford

Congratulations to the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Paul J. Watford. On Monday, Watford, currently a 44-year-old partner at the super-elite Munger Tolles & Olson, was confirmed to the federal bench. The vote was 61-34, and it came after a bit of drama in the Senate.

It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).

That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).

Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?

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