Daniel Meltzer

Don’t say we never bring you happy news here at Above the Law. Yesterday, for example, we extended congratulations to the 2014 Skadden Fellows, 28 graduating law students and judicial clerks who just landed prestigious public interest fellowships.

Today we are pleased to present to you the 2014 Bristow Fellows. As we’re previously explained, the holders of these one-year fellowships in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office get to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court, some of the most fascinating and important matters in all the land.

Bristow Fellowships, awarded to recent law school graduates with outstanding academic records and top clerkships, are generally regarded as second only to Supreme Court clerkships in prestige (and often lead to SCOTUS clerkships as well). You can read more about the Bristow Fellowship, including the job responsibilities and application process, on the Justice Department website.

Who are the newest Bristow Fellows? Where did they graduate from law school, and for whom did they clerk? Inquiring minds want to know….

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Now that the fabulous Elena Kagan has been officially nominated to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, some folks have been wondering: What does the future hold for the unsuccessful shortlisters? Let’s consider them, one by one.

1. Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.): The brilliant D.C. Circuit judge — practically a “tenth justice” himself, due to his ridiculous success in feeding his clerks to the Court — could be considered for a future vacancy. He’s young enough, at 57, and the Garland clerk mafia is strong, with representation in the White House counsel’s office and other D.C. power centers.

Garland is the SCOTUS candidate who would be most appealing to conservatives, so his chances of appointment are directly proportional to Republican representation in the Senate. My advice for Judge Garland: vote Republican.

2. Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.): The well-regarded Ninth Circuit judge’s appearance on Obama’s short list surprised some, but it really shouldn’t have. Sid Thomas is very smart and very liberal, and he would add diversity to the Court (as a Montanan, non-Ivy Leaguer, and Protestant).

“Sidney Thomas is being thrown around in case [Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy steps down in the next two years,” a D.C. insider involved in the nomination process told me. “As far as we can tell, Obama likes [Sid Thomas] and wants to introduce him as a possibility to make him more palatable next time around.”

If Justice Kennedy, 73, were to leave the Court, it would be without any West Coast representation. Nominating Judge Thomas — a member of the Ninth Circuit, just like AMK was before his elevation — would remedy that.

My advice for Judge Thomas: pray for Justice Kennedy to have a heart attack.

3. Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.): It pains me to say this, because I adore Judge Wood, but this go-around was her last best chance at the Court. This July 4, Judge Wood will turn 60, viewed by some as the upper bound for a nominee in terms of age. As one of my friends observed on Facebook, Wood is on her way to becoming the liberal version of Judge Edith Jones, whose numerous unsuccessful appearances on shortlists led Slate to dub her “Susan Lucci in judicial robes.”

My advice for Judge Wood: enjoy Chicago. Or pray for ill to befall Justice Ginsburg very, very quickly — if RBG leaves soon, you might still have a shot.

In addition, I have a rather significant CORRECTION, concerning some speculation I passed along last night. The rumor was that Daniel Meltzer, the deputy White House counsel who recently announced his resignation to return to the Harvard Law School faculty, harbors a grudge against Kagan — because she beat him out for the HLS deanship — and that Meltzer therefore lobbied against her nomination to the Court.

So…. just how wrong was I about tension between Kagan and Meltzer?

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And a correction: Kagan and Dan Meltzer are besties.

Tomorrow President Obama will officially announce his nomination of Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General and former Harvard Law School dean, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. The news might get leaked unofficially tonight, so stay tuned.

We have no reason to question this prediction by Politico — and several reasons support it. The biggest clue is that Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.), viewed by many as Kagan’s closest competitor, was notified yesterday by the White House that she (Wood) will not be the nominee.

OVERALL EXPLANATORY UPDATE: Apologies for the many updates and corrections below. The short version of what happened is that I originally reported that Judge Wood was notified yesterday that she wouldn’t be the nominee. I got some pushback on that — because it was, in fact, wrong. I corrected the item. But then, about two hours after this post first went up, Judge Wood did get a call from President Obama, informing her that he had decided to go in another direction.

UPDATE (7:00 PM): Some supporters of Judge Wood are denying that she’s out of the running. But, to the extent that Judge Wood hasn’t confirmed her getting dinged to them, I suspect she’s just trying to be a team player, by doing her part not to steal Kagan’s thunder or spoil the White House “surprise.”

UPDATE (7:30 PM): To the Wood supporters who insist she’s still waiting for a call from the White House: if she is the nominee, shouldn’t she know by now? Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein is reporting that “[t]he Administration plans to identify its nominee in ‘guidance’ at 7:20am tomorrow morning, with a formal announcement by the President at 11am.”

CORRECTION (7:45 PM): Okay. I’m now hearing, on VERY good authority, that Judge Wood was NOT notified yesterday. So she is still (technically) in contention. I continue to believe that Kagan will be the nominee — but I’d be happy to be wrong about this, since I previously predicted that Judge Wood would be nominated. (My colleague Elie Mystal, meanwhile, has been predicting Kagan all along.)

UPDATE (8:45 PM): I can now say — with absolute, 100 percent certainty, from the same VERY good authority — that Judge Wood was just informed that she’s not going to be the nominee. President Obama did not tell her who has been picked for the position.

UPDATE (10:15 PM): The nominee is going to be Kagan.

The past few days have brought additional clues that point in Kagan’s direction….

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Judge Wood was notified tonight that she’s not the nominee.


White House small Washington DC Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.JPGYes We Can…. Hire lots and lots of Supreme Court clerks?

In prior posts (here and here), we reported on the impressive legal team that President Barack Obama has assembled to staff key positions in his administration. Like many of the Bush Administration lawyers they’re replacing, the Obama lawyers have impressive pedigrees: degrees from top law schools, often with honors and/or law review experience; impressive clerkships, including many SCOTUS clerkships; and stints at leading law firms (but with WilmerHale and Williams & Connolly replacing Gibson Dunn and Kirkland & Ellis as the feeder firms).

Several legal superstars are making big financial sacrifices to go into government service. They can expect low six-figure salaries as government lawyers, a far cry from the seven figures that some of them — not the law professors, but the Biglaw partners — earned in the private sector. As reported by Ken Vogel over at Politico:

Eric Holder, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, will get a separation payment from his firm, Covington & Burling, of between $1 million and $5 million, plus a share of the firm’s profits from this year “based on work performed through date of separation,” and a repayment of between $500,000 and $1 million from the firm’s capital account…. [Holder] earned $3.3 million last year as partner.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s top lawyer, would get a severance of between $1 million and $5 million from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, an international law firm. He’ll also get his $200,000 capital investment back from the firm, which paid him $2.6 million last year as a partner.

For more details — e.g., how much Eric Holder and Jeh Johnson’s retirement plans and pensions might be worth — see Politico.

In our earlier hiring round-ups, we missed a few names. Many tipsters came forward to fill in the blanks.

Learn about the latest legal eagles to land in the Obama nest, after the jump.

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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.

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(And ODAG picks, too.)”