Supreme Court Clerks

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGWelcome to July, a month of transitions at the U.S. Supreme Court. The law clerks for October Term 2009 will be starting up at One First Street this month. The OT 2008 clerks are riding off into the sunset — and six-figure signing bonuses. [FN1]
So OT 2009 clerk hiring is pretty much done — to check out the incoming class of the Elect, see here — with one notable exception: Sonia Sotomayor. If you have information about what Judge Sotomayor plans to do on the clerk hiring front if and when she becomes Justice Sotomayor, please email us (subject line: “Sotomayor Clerk Situation”). We understand that at least some of her 2009-2010 Second Circuit clerks have already started with her; what will happen to them if and when she gets confirmed to the high court?
With OT 2009 behind them, the justices are turning their attention to October Term 2010. And so are we.
Check out the list of OT 2010 hires, after the jump.
[FN1] On the subject of SCOTUS clerk bonuses, reports of the demise of the $250,000 signing bonus may be greatly exaggerated. We hear through the grapevine that some New York offices are offering $250K signing bonuses to outgoing Supreme Court clerks. But it does appear to be the case that the $250K bonus is less common this year than last year, especially in D.C.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: A Look at OT 2010″

champagne glasses small.jpg
We’ll bottom-line this week’s contest, folks: The SCOTUS clerk wins. Yep, after a long absence, LEWW’s favorite credential makes a welcome appearance in the NYT weddings section, and we’ve got the details for you.
But first, congratulations to Sabrina Charles and Jamie Dycus, who readers overwhelmingly voted Legal Eagle Couple of the Month for May, demonstrating that — in the words of one commenter (and apparently, in the minds of ATL readers) — “Wachtell > Sotomayor > Olympic medal.”
Here are our finalists:

1. Kathryn Whitfield and Adam Fotiades
2. Christina Krause and Peter Henderson
3. Pamela Bookman and Jeffrey Perlman

More about these couples, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 6.14: Chemistry Lesson”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGThe National Law Journal suggests that the down economy could be hitting the pockets of the Elect. Some firms are suggesting that the $250,000 bonus to hire a former Supreme Court clerk is just too expensive in today’s economy:

At firms that have been shaken by the downturn, however, a $250,000 bonus will be hard to sell, some practitioners say. “Intuitively, it doesn’t feel right to pay that kind of bonus when you are trying to make economies wherever you can at the firm,” said veteran advocate Carter Phillips, managing partner at Sidley Austin’s Washington office. Thomas Goldstein of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where there have been cuts, agrees that it’s tough to justify a $250,000 bonus when a firm is considering letting go a staff person paid $50,000. Because of that juxtaposition, he predicted bonuses will shrink — though he said it’s too early in the hiring season to say how much. “The number of firms willing to pay that amount of money will be down.”

But surely these firms aren’t talking about collusion, are they? SCOTUS clerks command top dollar, and firms that are struggling can’t artificially deflate the price for this top talent — even if they want to:

Firms won’t be sorry to wave goodbye to what Goldstein calls the “incredible escalation” that the $250,000 bonus represents. Even before the recession, firms were grumbling about it because of a recurring pattern: Some clerks grab the bonus, work at the firm for a year or three, then skip off to academia with loans paid off and kids’ tuition in the bank. “Firms are going to be more interested in clerks staying around and practicing law,” [former solicitor general Paul] Clement said.

While some firms might be priced out of the Elect market, we are still talking about a “recession-proof” set of credentials.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Clerkship Bonus Watch: Still at $250K?”

perfectUnion.jpgYour ATL editors kicked off the Memorial Day weekend with a trip to the East 13th Street Theater in Manhattan, where we saw A More Perfect Union, presented by the Epic Theater Ensemble. The play, by Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen, is about two members of The Elect — i.e., two Supreme Court clerks, who fall in love while clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court. Maddie, a white Jewish woman from Ohio, clerks for a fictional conservative justice called “The Wise One”; James, an African-American man from Georgia, clerks for a fictional liberal justice called “The Enlightened One.”
Like the night we spent reviewing Law Revue videos, there were highlights and low points. A big highlight was a post-play discussion featuring former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse. As you know, we are what some might call Greenhouse groupies, though she was not as excited to talk to us as we were to talk to her. We just got a little handshake, a “nice to see you,” and an introduction to her daughter.
The post-show discussion also included professors Elizabeth Emens and Susan Sturm, both of Columbia Law School. Professor Sturm mentioned being a law school classmate of SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whom she described as “a straightforward person, who doesn’t hide from her background or make decisions based on it.” She also defended Judge Sotomayor’s Berkeley remarks about personal experience informing a judge’s jurisprudence, noting that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg basically said as much in discussing the recent strip search case before the Court (noting that her colleagues, who seemed less sensitive to the plaintiff’s plight, “have never been a 13-year-old girl”).
Obviously, we think the legal world is an exciting place, and we are always thrilled to see the courts get dramatic treatments. But our standards for fictional treatment of the courts, and especially the Court, are high.
Check out our reviews, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Theater of the Courtroom (Or, A Review of A More Perfect Union)”

Clarence Thomas portrait Justice Clarence Thomas.jpgIn today’s Morning Docket, we linked to an interesting article, by Adam Liptak of the New York Times, concerning a recent public appearance by Justice Clarence Thomas before a group of high school essay contest winners. The WSJ Law Blog collects a number of fun tidbits — such as Justice Thomas’s declaration that “the dishwasher is a miracle,” and his weakness for Saving Private Ryan.

This passage caught our eye:

“I am rounding the last turn for my 18th term on the court,” [Justice Thomas] added, but his work — “this endeavor,” he called it, “or, for some, an ordeal” — has not gotten easier.

“That’s one thing about this job,” he said. “You get a little tired.”

So does this mean that Justice Thomas might retire? CT is usually silent on the bench; he doesn’t seem to enjoy the intellectual combat of oral argument, a la Justices Scalia or Breyer. One wonders whether he might be happier driving around in his RV, which is how he passes his summers, than hanging out at One First Street, cranking out opinions.

But don’t expect CT to step down anytime soon. He’s still just 60 years old — he turns 61 on June 23 — which makes him a spring chicken by SCOTUS standards. He sees his service on the Court as a great honor and civic calling, as he explained in his superb memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. He’s also quite good at his job: no matter what Senator Harry Reid might say, Justice Thomas is widely regarded as a fine craftsman of judicial opinions (including many in highly technical statutory fields).

Oh, and Justice Thomas has hired clerks for October Term 2009. Now, clerk hiring evidence is not conclusive; some justices warn their hires that they might retire at any time. But since it would be cruel and unusual punishment to bestow a SCOTUS clerkship on someone and then take it away, hiring clerks is certainly suggestive of an intention to stay (just like bulk conference room reservations, by the “Office of Attorney Development,” are circumstantial evidence of looming lawyer layoffs).

More on the subject of Supreme Court clerk hiring, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Justice Thomas ‘A Little Tired’ of His Job?
(He has hired his clerks. Who are they?)”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGWe take back what we previously wrote about Justice Samuel Alito being “a bit secretive about his clerk hiring.” Presumably Justice Alito signed off on this press release issued by Seton Hall Law School, announcing the hiring of Lucas Townsend (Seton Hall 2004 / Ackerman (D.N.J.) / Trump Barry) as an Alito clerk for October Term 2009.

Congratulations to Townsend and to Seton Hall, which has placed its first graduate into a SCOTUS clerkship. From a tipster:

We just got this email [a slightly tweaked version of the press release] from the dean. Not bad for a school that most of the elitists on ATL would consider a TTT. Although SHU will never sniff the T-14, the school has been steadily climbing the U.S. News rankings, and I think this alum’s accomplishment might help that cause.

We also had the best showing of New York Vault 100 placement ever by this year’s 2L class. Things are looking good on this side of the Hudson.

Additional Supreme Court clerk hiring news, plus updated lists of Supreme Court clerks for OT 2009 and OT 2010, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: A First for Seton Hall”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGOkay, so Chief Justice John Roberts can’t administer an oath of office to save his life. But he can hire brilliant and fabulous law clerks:

1. James McDonald (UVA 2007 / Sutton)

2. Stephen Sachs (Yale 2007 / S. Williams)

2. Erik Zimmerman (Stanford 2007/Wilkinson)

They join the previously hired Roman Martinez (Yale 2008 / Kavanaugh), filling up JGR’s chambers for October Term 2009.

We also hear that Justice Samuel A. Alito is done hiring for OT 2009. In addition to Jaynie Randall’s previously reported hiring, we can now add:

1. Amit Agarwal (Georgetown / Kavanaugh)

2. K. Winn Allen (UVA / Sutton)

If you know the identity of the fourth Alito clerk, please drop us a line. We hear that SAA is a bit secretive about his clerk hiring, which strikes us as a bit silly. As a former prosecutor, Justice Alito should be familiar with the inevitable discovery doctrine. Why guard the identities of Supreme Court clerks so jealously, when they’re all going to be made public eventually by the Court’s Public Information Office?

Updated lists of Supreme Court clerks, for OT 2009 and OT 2010, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Chief Justice Roberts”

White House small Washington DC Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.JPGLast night we wrote about some of the top-notch talent that will be filling senior legal positions in the Obama Administration. These are big names, and you probably also read about them in big publications, like the Legal Times or the Wall Street Journal.

ATL is willing to drill down deeper. We now bring you personnel news at more junior levels. If you graduated law school in the past 15 or even 10 years, you might actually know some of these people.

Our prior post focused on two of the most prestigious parts of the Department of Justice: the Solicitor General’s office, and the Office of Legal Counsel. We now turn our attention to two other top offices: the White House Counsel’s office, and the office of the Deputy Attorney General.

Over 300,000 people applied for 3,300 positions in the Obama administration. After going through a ridiculous screening process, these fine folks landed 20 of the most coveted legal jobs in the country.

See if you know any of them, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: The Obama White House Counsel’s Office
(And ODAG picks, too.)”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGWith Barack Obama about to assume the presidency, alongside a heavily Democratic Senate, the justices in the liberal wing of the Supreme Court are free to retire if they like. Don’t be surprised if Justice David Souter, never a fan of life at One First Street, heads for the exit early in the Obama presidency.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer plan to stick around for a bit, at least based on their law clerk hiring. Justice Ginsburg has hired all of her October Term 2009 clerks, as well as at least two for October Term 2010. And Justice Breyer, in addition to filling all his OT 2009 spots, has hired at least three for OT 2010.

We previously reported on Justice Breyer’s hiring of Erika Myers (Stanford 2008 / Kozinski). Today we bring you two more SGB clerks for OT 2010:

1. Natalie Ram (Yale 2008 / Calabresi)

2. David Zionts (Harvard 2008 / Garland)

In addition, here’s another hire by Justice Clarence Thomas, for OT 2009:

Elizabeth Papez (Harvard 1999 / Boggs)

Papez is no stranger to these pages. We previously mentioned her move from Kirkland & Ellis, where she was a partner, to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (where she entered as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, and currently serves as Deputy Assistant Attorney General). Papez’s career trajectory — from K&E partner, to high-ranking DOJ official, to Supreme Court law clerk — is a sign of just how coveted a SCOTUS clerkship is, as both a credential and a life experience.

Updated lists of Supreme Court clerks, for OT 2009 and OT 2010, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Justice Breyer’s 2010 Hires”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGOur last round-up of Supreme Court clerk hiring was published back in August, before the start of October Term 2008. Now that the justices are back in the country and back on the bench, they’re back to interviewing clerkship applicants.

Over at the Clerkship Notification Blog, there was buzz about Justice Stephen Breyer interviewing and hiring clerks for October Term 2009. That intelligence was correct. Here are his hires:

1. Christopher Fonzone (Harvard 2007 / Wilkinson)

2. Jennifer Nou (Yale 2008 / Posner)

Fonzone appears to be the “2007 Harvard grad” referenced in the comments. With Chris Fonzone and Jen Nou on board, Justice Breyer is all done for OT 2009. (We also hear that he’s started to hire for October Term 2010, but we have no details.)

Update (3:40 PM): We now know one of SGB’s hires for OT 2010:

Erika Myers (Stanford 2008 / Kozinski)

Interesting — although Chief Judge Kozinski is a big-time feeder, he tends to feed more to the right side of the Court. So he may be expanding his range as a feeder judge.

The updated list of Supreme Court clerks, with Fonzone and Nou and Myers added, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: New Term, New Hires”

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