School Range: UT/UCLA
Rank: Top 5%
LR: Yes, on exec board.
Published: Selected for publication but not published yet.
Recs: 3 really good ones (2 from big name faculty 1 from unknown faculty).
Where Applying: Some of the "less competitive" feeders (e.g. Jones (5th) vs. Kozinski (9th)) and more competitive Dist. Ct. judges (e.g. M.D.C.A., S.D.N.Y., or D.D.C.)
Other Factors: Army Iraq veteran; V10 SA; HYS undergrad.
Would appreciate thoughts on competitiveness.
Well, if you want me to be serious about it, pretty much what ClerkAdviser said. You're right at the dividing line between COA and USDC, and probably just above it if you're at UT (which I assume you are, because everyone at UCLA would know that it's CD Cal and not MD Cal). You're probably not competitive for any feeders -- they're going to want top 5 students from those schools, not top 5%. And keep in mind that "competitive" isn't the same as "shoe in." I could totally see you "only" getting three COA interviews and striking out due to bad luck (e.g., two later interviews where the judge hires before s/he even sees you, and one bad interview in the remaining one).
So I'd apply broadly to COA. I'd also apply fairly broadly to the USDCs -- definitely more than just the competitive markets. One they're competitive, and two, at least SDNY and DDC have a ton of alum-only judges (don't know about CD Cal). Basically, I'd apply to every USDC judge in your region. If you're at UT, do sort of a Wright Amendment thing (look it up, youngins) -- apply to every USDC judge in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana. If you're at UCLA, do every judge on the West Coast and Hawaii, plus Arizona, Nevada, and maybe even Utah and Colorado.