Kavanaugh First Supreme Court Justice With All-Female Roster Of Law Clerks

A Supreme Court first by the newest Justice.


Newly sworn-in Justice Brett Kavanaugh has accomplished a first for the Supreme Court that is actually worthy of praise:

WASHINGTON — Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, confirmed to the Supreme Court amid fiery accusations of sexual misconduct against women, arrived Tuesday for his first day on the bench with an unprecedented all-female class of law clerks.

As a result, more than half of the Supreme Court’s law clerks this year will — for the first time in American history — be women.

Former colleagues of Justice Kavanaugh have described a longstanding reputation of promoting women in law. During his 12 years at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the majority of Justice Kavanaugh’s law clerks were women — 25 of 48 — and during his confirmation hearings he testified that he graduated more of them to clerkships at the Supreme Court than any other federal judge.

Supreme Court clerkships — among the most coveted credentials in American law — offer young lawyers unusual influence over the court’s proceedings. There are about 36 law clerks each term, and they offer recommendations on which cases to hear, help prepare the justices for oral arguments and draft major portions of the opinions and dissents.

The clerks often graduate into prolific careers in government, academia and major law firms; eight throughout history have gone on to serve on the Supreme Court, including Justice Kavanaugh, who served as a law clerk from 1993 to 1994 for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whom he is replacing.

Justice Kavanaugh’s first Supreme Court clerks graduated from top law schools and worked as clerks for conservative federal judges. One worked for Justice Kavanaugh on the appeals court; the other three worked for prominent appeals court judges appointed by Republican presidents.

The Times article quoted above goes on to profile each of the four women who will serve as Justice Kavanaugh’s clerks for his first term on the nation’s highest court. As can be expected, they all graduated from Top 25 law schools, with two of them coming from Kavanaugh’s alma mater at Yale and Harvard and the other two coming from Stanford and the University of Virginia. Each of them had also clerked for Judges on one of the Circuit Courts of Appeal, including one who had previously served as one of Kavanaugh’s clerks when he served on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

While women have served as clerks for Supreme Court Justices for many years now, this is the first time that all of a Justices four clerks have been female in the Court’s history and leaving aside everything that has happened over the past three weeks, it strikes me that Justice Kavanaugh does deserve some credit for taking this step. Any type of Federal Judicial Clerkship is generally something that opens plenty of doors for young lawyers, and a Supreme Court Clerkship opens even more elite doors within the legal profession. The people who have held these positions have gone on to work at the nation’s top law firms, or to careers in government and politics that give them a tremendous amount of influence at a relatively young age. Opening those doors for young women is a good thing that can only benefit the legal profession and the nation. Additionally, it’s worth noting that these clerks have no small degree of influence over the Justices they serve with in that they give recommendations regarding what position a Justice should take on accepting the thousands of petitions seeking review that the Court receives in a given year. The final decision is up to the individual Justice, of course, but as Justice Scalia admitted in interviews before he passed away, the clerks play a huge role in this process simply because the volume of petitions for review is so large that it becomes impossible for the Justices themselves to sort them all out while also attending to their other duties. Additionally, several retired Justices have noted that they have often modified their positions on specific cases based on the discussions they inevitable have with their team of clerks. What impact these young women have on Justice Kavanaugh will remain to be seen.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. KM says:

    Normally, I’d have nothing but praise for such a thing, especially from a conservative. So kudos where they are due for a historic step.

    However, this smacks of heavy-handed PR. “Oh look, he’s not a perv – he’s so progressive he’s got nothing but women working for him!” One wonders if this was really his choice or a jaded spin to rehabilitate his image. I cannot give him full credit for good faith on this but points for trying…….

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  2. To be fair, this mirrors Kavanaugh’s hiring practices when he was on the D.C Circuit.

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  3. JKB says:

    You skipped over that one day on the court, Kavanaugh has hired the exact same number of Black clerks as Ruth Bader Ginsburg has in her entire tenure on the Supreme Court as well as her time on the Court of Appeals.

    She clerked for Kavanaugh at the Court of Appeals and is one of only three Black clerks at the SCOTUS this term.

    And why might that matter in say an abortion case?

    “While the discourse around abortion still focuses on scared white teenagers, the reality is that the typical abortion patient these days is a twenty-something single mother of color.”

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  4. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    Normally, I’d have nothing but praise for such a thing, especially from a conservative.

    Normally, yes.

    Given the revelations of the past few weeks, one has to wonder what else may be going on between Kavanaugh and his many female clerks.

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  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kathy:

    Well, except that all the allegations relate to thinks from high school or college. There’s been no allegations of any mistreatment of his law clerks (that I know of).

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Hal_10000:

    True. But there was also abject fear of an in-depth investigation. I wonder what he was hiding.

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  7. Terrye Cravens says:

    I have heard he likes them to look a certain way. Truthfully, I don’t care. As far as I am concerned he is still a scumbag.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Justice Boof likes his clerks hot.
    From the Guardian:

    A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

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  9. Teve says:
  10. Guarneri says:

    @Kathy:

    You poor, demented soul.

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  11. Franklin says:

    The allegations against Kavanaugh, if there was any truth to them, were about exerting power over vulnerable women. That certainly wouldn’t mean he disrespects all women, however. At least not now; being a father of girls can change one’s perspective a tad.

    Personally I’m glad he’s taken some baby steps in the right direction: admitting he was over-the-top in the hearings, pledging again to be impartial, continuing to hire females. Much of it is just talk, and we all know how he’s going to vote, but at least he didn’t double down while being confirmed.

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  12. Tyrell says:

    Most people could not name one Supreme Court justice, now or in the past. Many probably couldn’t tell you who their governor is for that matter.
    When thinking of famous and influential judges, some come to mind.
    Judge Parker missed the Supreme Court by one vote. He served in the Nuremberg war trials.
    Justice Oliver Holmes fought in the Civil War.
    Justice Harlan taught Sunday School at a church in Washington, D.C. His Bible has been signed by every Supreme Court justice since his term.
    Judge Byron White played in the NFL.
    These judges were not on the Supreme Court but are famous:
    Judge Kennesaw Landis was also the commissioner of baseball.
    Judge Roy Bean held court in a saloon, “the only law east of the Pecos”
    And who can forget Judge Wapner of the “People’s Court”
    The present Supreme Court building is not as old as some might think.
    The Supreme Court is a collection of symbols and sculpture. It has a statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, and a statue of Mohammed. There are also statues of Lycurgus, Justinian, and King John.
    There is a basketball court on top of the courthouse.
    The cornerstone was laid by President Truman

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  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Funny thing… I’m married. No really, not a lot of people know that!

    My wife has led an apolitical life, but she has grown to appreciate catching the news and tries to keep up on some of the big stories.

    From her perspective, knowing what had transpired in the last 10 days, when she heard that the K was getting an all woman staff of clerks, her comment was: “What the hell is wrong with that perv??!!?”

    I asked her what she meant.

    She said: The republicans always talk about hiring people on merit, but somehow all the people of merit just happen to be women… for a guy that has a tendency to hire nice looking women… I mean, what the hell is wrong with that guy??!!?”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

    Yes. What is wrong with him? And what is wrong with the Party that doesn’t see the irony of an all female team?

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  14. JKB says:

    I see the fake news is strong among the commenters here.

    For the record, the “top professor at Yale Law School”, Professor Amy Chua has vehemently denied the lies spread as “news” by supposed professional news organizations.

    Everything that is being said about the advice I give to students applying to Brett Kavanaugh — or any judge — is outrageous, 100% false, and the exact opposite of everything I have stood for and said for the last fifteen years.

    It’s only been refuted since at least September 22. But today’s “news” works on printing fake “news”.

    Hilarious how this episode made so many “news” organizations to go full-on Fake News.

    And here is an excerpt from the July 12th Wall Street Journal

    Kavanaugh Is a Mentor To Women
    By Amy Chua
    The Wall Street Journal
    July 12, 2018

    Judge Kavanaugh’s clerks are racially and ethnically diverse. Since joining the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006, a quarter of his clerks have been members of a minority group. More than half, 25 out of 48, have been women. In 2014, all four were women—a first for any judge on the D.C. Circuit.

    In the past decade, I have helped place 10 Yale Law School students with Judge Kavanaugh, eight of them women. I recently emailed them to ask about their clerkship experiences. They all responded almost instantaneously. They cited his legendary work ethic (“He expected us to work really hard, but there was always one person working harder than us—the Judge”), his commitment to excellence (“he wants every opinion that comes out of his chambers to be perfect; it is not uncommon to go through 30-50 drafts”), his humility (“He can take a great joke just as easily as he can land one”), and his decency (“I’ve never seen him be rude to anyone in the building”).

    To a person, they described his extraordinary mentorship. “When I accepted his offer to clerk,” one woman wrote, “I had no idea I was signing up for a lifelong mentor who feels an enduring sense of responsibility for each of his clerks.” Another said: “I can’t imagine making a career decision without his advice.” And another: “He’s been an incredible mentor to me despite the fact that I’m a left-of-center woman. He always takes into account my goals rather than giving generic advice.”

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  15. Mikey says:

    @JKB: I always get a chuckle from you Trumpist fools’ inane blather about “fake news” as you credulously support Trump, who has uttered several thousand demonstrable falsehoods during his term in office.

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  16. James Pearce says:

    @Hal_10000:

    There’s been no allegations of any mistreatment of his law clerks

    Or any of the basketball players he coached.

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  17. Scott F. says:

    Will any of these women convince Kavanaugh to admit publicly that he perjured himself before Congress? If not, who cares who clerks for him?

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  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    First…Of course she denied it, fool. Your leader, Dennison, denied sleeping with a porn star…but we now know he was lying.
    Second…Ted Bundy didn’t kill a lot of women. That doesn’t mean he didn’t kill some women.
    You are a Dunning Kruger poster child.

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  19. Rupert Simmons says:

    How come Democrats stopped calling for the FBI report to be released after they all read it?

    What are they hiding?

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  20. An Interested Party says:

    It’s a pity that websites don’t have a reliable, foolproof form of pest control…

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