SCOTUS Clerks Are Fair Game

Brett McGurk

Let me begin by making one thing clear: I support the nomination of Brett H. McGurk to serve as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq. He is eminently qualified for this post, in light of his extensive experience, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, dealing with the complex and sensitive issues that exist between the United States and Iraq.

Brett McGurk’s brilliance lies beyond dispute — he’s a member of the Elect, after all — and the same is true of his heroism and commitment to public service. In the late 1990s, while he was a summer associate at Cravath, he and a fellow summer rescued two drowning women during a beach outing gone awry. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he devoted his legal career to government service — clerking for Judge Dennis Jacobs (2d Cir.) and the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, working as a legal advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, serving on the National Security Council, and counseling two past ambassadors to Iraq, Ryan Crocker and Christopher Hill. McGurk possesses vast expertise about Iraq, acquired through the many years he has spent advancing U.S. interests in the region — at considerable personal risk to himself.

If you are a high-minded individual, you can stop reading here. If you are less high-minded, keep reading to learn about the sexy email messages that Brett McGurk allegedly exchanged with a prominent (and attractive) journalist….

Please note the UPDATES added at the end of this post.

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Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.jpgOur obsession with Supreme Court clerks is longstanding, dating back to our blogging for Underneath Their Robes (where we used to profile SCOTUS clerks). And it seems we’re not alone in lusting after the Elect.

Apparently oral argument makes people think of other oral activities. Check out this “Missed Connection” from Craigslist:

Law clerk at SCOTUS honest services argument – w4m (Supreme Court Building)

We were both there to hear the honest services arguments, which were fascinating. You were siting with the law clerks, I think, so I’m wondering if you’re one of them. You looked slightly older and more mature than the rest of the people you were sitting with. You’re quite handsome and I enjoyed watching you as you followed the arguments. Too bad you left at the case break–I’d been trying to catch your eye. (I was sitting in the front row of reserved seating.) I promise that if you agree to meet me for dinner that I won’t mention Black or Weyhrauch. What say you?

If you’ll forgive the quibbling, this posting is subpar; it’s missing some information. First, the poster has omitted her age (which typically goes after the “w4m”). Second, she offers little identifying information about herself (e.g., “I was wearing a red scarf”).

Third, she offers little identifying information about the clerk, other than that he’s “more mature” and “quite handsome.” We suspect that every male Supreme Court clerk fancies himself “more mature” and “quite handsome.”

Typically a missed connection involves, well, a “connection.” The lack of identifying information suggests that no such connection was forged here. But we admire the poster’s effort.

This is not, by the way, the first time a CL “Missed Connection” has arisen out of a Supreme Court argument.

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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.

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100 dollar bills clerk clerkship bonuses Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgIn our recent New York Times op-ed piece praising lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks, we wrote that the bonuses “are expected to reach $250,000 this year — paid on top of starting salaries approaching $200,000.”

Some people have inquired into the factual basis for our statement. As it turns out, we did some actual reporting to support it. The reporting never made it into the final op-ed piece, but we’re happy to provide the details here.

If you’re curious, read the rest of this post, after the jump.

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