Best and worst judges to clerk for

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Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:29 am

Particularly for the benefit of those of us whose CSO doesn't provide helpful clerkship feedback, I thought I would start a thread where folks could discuss good and bad judges to clerk for, with "good" and "bad" defined loosely.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:05 am

I doubt that you're going to get many people naming specific judges, other than the handful that have a notoriously bad reputation.

Speaking in generalities, if you're clerking for a USDC judge, try to find out about (1) pro se clerks, (2) who handles the social security appeals, (3) what the magistrates do before brightlining and (4) how much the case manager does on criminal cases. The answers to those questions will clue you in on whether your clerkship is going to consist of churning out dinky one page orders and SS decisions (which would suuuuuck), or writing substantive opinions (which is awesome).

For example, in my court, the pro se clerks do most of the pro se prisoner stuff :) , we do the SS appeals ourselves :( , magistrates basically do everything except MTD (and similarly dispositive motions) until discovery closes :D , and the case manager handles all of the procedural stuff in criminal cases :) .

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:14 am

theaccidentalclerk wrote:I doubt that you're going to get many people naming specific judges, other than the handful that have a notoriously bad reputation.


I figure that may be where the Anon feature comes in handy.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:38 am

theaccidentalclerk wrote:I doubt that you're going to get many people naming specific judges, other than the handful that have a notoriously bad reputation.

Speaking in generalities, if you're clerking for a USDC judge, try to find out about (1) pro se clerks, (2) who handles the social security appeals, (3) what the magistrates do before brightlining and (4) how much the case manager does on criminal cases. The answers to those questions will clue you in on whether your clerkship is going to consist of churning out dinky one page orders and SS decisions (which would suuuuuck), or writing substantive opinions (which is awesome).

For example, in my court, the pro se clerks do most of the pro se prisoner stuff :) , we do the SS appeals ourselves :( , magistrates basically do everything except MTD (and similarly dispositive motions) until discovery closes :D , and the case manager handles all of the procedural stuff in criminal cases :) .

My court too! And the magistrate judges handle ss appeals. It's awesome. (It's a "flyover" district, but nonetheless a great experience. So don't overlook the boondocks!) (it's actually a nice city to live in, but you get the idea.)

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:01 am

Sloviter (3rd) and Smith (EDVa) are two that I have consistently heard negative things about.

Positive things: Almost all of the 9th Cir. judges in Southern Cal (must be the weather) have reputations as thoughtful judges, though some have a reputation for having huge expectations. Kozinski is rumored to openly pit clerks against each other in an effort to get more out of them, but my guess is if you have a shot at Kozinski, you don't really care about that kind of work environment and view the opportunity as worth the demands.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:19 am

I figure that may be where the Anon feature comes in handy.


Even so, you're not going to get many "working for this judge sucked" comments. Even secondhand ones. It's not in a former clerk's best interest to badmouth his or her former boss. One, because you risk getting outed. And two, a former clerk wants everyone to think that his or her judge is the most brilliant and awesome judge out there for professional reasons. (Which they're not, because mine is.)

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:...but my guess is if you have a shot at Kozinski, you don't really care about that kind of work environment and view the opportunity as worth the demands.


I personally know two people who have declined Kozinski interviews. Apparently it really is so tough that some people are willing to forego the opportunity altogether.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sloviter (3rd) and Smith (EDVa) are two that I have consistently heard negative things about.

Positive things: Almost all of the 9th Cir. judges in Southern Cal (must be the weather) have reputations as thoughtful judges, though some have a reputation for having huge expectations. Kozinski is rumored to openly pit clerks against each other in an effort to get more out of them, but my guess is if you have a shot at Kozinski, you don't really care about that kind of work environment and view the opportunity as worth the demands.


Kozinski work hours: Weekdays 9:30 am - 1:30 am, with a 2 hour break for dinner, business formal attire; Weekends 10-12 am - 1:30 am. No holidays, you work 365 days a year, including Christmas, New Years, etc. Kozinski's placement power in the SCT is also not as strong as when O'Connor was on the court. If you want a feeder judge there are probably at least a dozen on the same level with a more humane work experience.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:26 pm

Yes, I had a prof who clerked for Kozinski who said s/he was the only person who found the hours at the biglaw firm s/he went to after to be a reduction. S/he was dead serious. (Good thing I have no shot at clerking for him...)

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Yes, I had a prof who clerked for Kozinski who said s/he was the only person who found the hours at the biglaw firm s/he went to after to be a reduction. S/he was dead serious. (Good thing I have no shot at clerking for him...)


I met some of the Chief's clerks when I was clerking on the 9th and he sat in our courthouse for a week--they were not happy campers. One of them told us that he made a clerk come to his house at 3 am just to deliver a favorite stapler. It sounded like hazing to me.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:48 pm

God, that's awful. I usually get in to chambers around 9:15 and leave around 5:30. I'm usually in before my judge around 50% of the time. Five months in, and I can count the days when s/he was still there when I left on one hand.

(I should note though that my judge is way chill, so this probably isn't representative.)

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sloviter (3rd) and Smith (EDVa) are two that I have consistently heard negative things about.

Positive things: Almost all of the 9th Cir. judges in Southern Cal (must be the weather) have reputations as thoughtful judges, though some have a reputation for having huge expectations. Kozinski is rumored to openly pit clerks against each other in an effort to get more out of them, but my guess is if you have a shot at Kozinski, you don't really care about that kind of work environment and view the opportunity as worth the demands.


Kozinski work hours: Weekdays 9:30 am - 1:30 am, with a 2 hour break for dinner, business formal attire; Weekends 10-12 am - 1:30 am. No holidays, you work 365 days a year, including Christmas, New Years, etc. Kozinski's placement power in the SCT is also not as strong as when O'Connor was on the court. If you want a feeder judge there are probably at least a dozen on the same level with a more humane work experience.

A former clerk for a different judge in the 9th once told me that Kozinski says he doesn't interview for one-year clerk terms, he interviews for 365-day clerk terms. My friend then added that to be more honest, Kozinski should say he interviews for 365 days & nights.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:13 pm

Incidentally, for those who are wondering how Kozinski could find enough work to fill up that much time, it's because he doesn't participate in the bench memo pool. So his clerks literally have to write 3x as many bench memos as your standard 9th Circuit clerk.

(For those who are wondering, it works like this: There are three COA judges on every panel. Before [I think before -- but I'm not 100% sure] oral argument, judges have their clerks go through the record and briefs and write a memo summarizing the legal issues and how they think the case should come out. Most Ninth Circuit judges have agreed with one another that instead of every chambers doing one of these memos for a case, when they are on a panel together, chambers will divvy up the memos so each one gets a third of them. Kozinski refuses to participate in that. So his chambers does bench memos for every case where he's on the panel. That means three times as much work on the part of the job that takes up probably the majority of a clerk's time anyway.)

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby imchuckbass58 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:18 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:Incidentally, for those who are wondering how Kozinski could find enough work to fill up that much time, it's because he doesn't participate in the bench memo pool. So his clerks literally have to write 3x as many bench memos as your standard 9th Circuit clerk.

(For those who are wondering, it works like this: There are three COA judges on every panel. Before [I think before -- but I'm not 100% sure] oral argument, judges have their clerks go through the record and briefs and write a memo summarizing the legal issues and how they think the case should come out. Most Ninth Circuit judges have agreed with one another that instead of every chambers doing one of these memos for a case, when they are on a panel together, chambers will divvy up the memos so each one gets a third of them. Kozinski refuses to participate in that. So his chambers does bench memos for every case where he's on the panel. That means three times as much work on the part of the job that takes up probably the majority of a clerk's time anyway.)


In fairness, many 2nd Circuit judges operate this way (i.e., each chambers writes its own bench memo), but still manage to have their clerks work decent hours.

I actually think it's a better system, at least for cases that aren't open and shut. If you only have one bench memo you're only going to have one point of view on paper. Having three potentially contrasting takes on a case may be useful in some circumstances.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:10 pm

I have heard that Alsup (N.D. Cal.) is a notoriously difficult boss. But unlike Kozinski, I haven't heard that he's sadistic. It sounds like he is just a very, very hard worker, and he expects the same of his clerks. If you can endure, it sounds rewarding. But very long hours...his OSCAR listing said something along the lines of "after the first year, you may be considered for one week of vacation" (the clerkship is 18 months). I think weekends are expected, and clerks are expected to arrive in chambers at 7AM or earlier.

Armstrong (N.D. Cal.) has lost several clerks during their clerkships. I don't really know why, but I know that several of clerks have quit throughout the years. That seems like a pretty big red flag.

Reinhardt (9th) is also supposed to be very demanding. But I think if you survive the clerkship, he really goes to bat for you.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:21 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:Incidentally, for those who are wondering how Kozinski could find enough work to fill up that much time, it's because he doesn't participate in the bench memo pool. So his clerks literally have to write 3x as many bench memos as your standard 9th Circuit clerk.

(For those who are wondering, it works like this: There are three COA judges on every panel. Before [I think before -- but I'm not 100% sure] oral argument, judges have their clerks go through the record and briefs and write a memo summarizing the legal issues and how they think the case should come out. Most Ninth Circuit judges have agreed with one another that instead of every chambers doing one of these memos for a case, when they are on a panel together, chambers will divvy up the memos so each one gets a third of them. Kozinski refuses to participate in that. So his chambers does bench memos for every case where he's on the panel. That means three times as much work on the part of the job that takes up probably the majority of a clerk's time anyway.)


I'm not sure it's the bench memos that are keeping the Chief's clerks so busy. I know he hires a lot of externs, and a former extern applying to our chambers sent in a bench memo he wrote for the Chief as a writing sample. It was only a few pages long and very cursory in its reasoning--I could hardly believe it, given the amount of work that goes into a pooled bench memo. The law clerks probably palm off most of the boring cases to the externs.

The Chief is very active in the en banc process, which is extremely time consuming for the clerks given the endless memos that fly back and forth. It's also a lot more fun than writing bench memos because it's advocacy writing. The Chief also has a lot of administrative duties, speeches, and articles that he probably delegates to the clerks.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
theaccidentalclerk wrote:Incidentally, for those who are wondering how Kozinski could find enough work to fill up that much time, it's because he doesn't participate in the bench memo pool. So his clerks literally have to write 3x as many bench memos as your standard 9th Circuit clerk.

(For those who are wondering, it works like this: There are three COA judges on every panel. Before [I think before -- but I'm not 100% sure] oral argument, judges have their clerks go through the record and briefs and write a memo summarizing the legal issues and how they think the case should come out. Most Ninth Circuit judges have agreed with one another that instead of every chambers doing one of these memos for a case, when they are on a panel together, chambers will divvy up the memos so each one gets a third of them. Kozinski refuses to participate in that. So his chambers does bench memos for every case where he's on the panel. That means three times as much work on the part of the job that takes up probably the majority of a clerk's time anyway.)


I'm not sure it's the bench memos that are keeping the Chief's clerks so busy. I know he hires a lot of externs, and a former extern applying to our chambers sent in a bench memo he wrote for the Chief as a writing sample. It was only a few pages long and very cursory in its reasoning--I could hardly believe it, given the amount of work that goes into a pooled bench memo. The law clerks probably palm off most of the boring cases to the externs.

The Chief is very active in the en banc process, which is extremely time consuming for the clerks given the endless memos that fly back and forth. It's also a lot more fun than writing bench memos because it's advocacy writing. The Chief also has a lot of administrative duties, speeches, and articles that he probably delegates to the clerks.


It's so much work because he makes so much work for his clerks; that is, he makes them write 50, 60, 70+ drafts of opinions, etc. All clerks also have additional, nonlegal duties, such as being the contact person for potential clerks, etc.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:57 pm

Given all of this Ninth Circuit talk, does anyone have any information on how Ikuta, Smith, and O'Scannlain do things?

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Given all of this Ninth Circuit talk, does anyone have any information on how Ikuta, Smith, and O'Scannlain do things?


First two hire alums most of the time. (Smith has made a few exceptions for top of the class from HYS.) Both of them also have great reputations as judges to work for. No info on O'Scannlain.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Given all of this Ninth Circuit talk, does anyone have any information on how Ikuta, Smith, and O'Scannlain do things?


First two hire alums most of the time. (Smith has made a few exceptions for top of the class from HYS.) Both of them also have great reputations as judges to work for. No info on O'Scannlain.


Judge O'Scannlain has hired alums in the past. I've heard he's a good boss.

As a side note, it's hard to get casually find out which judges are less than superb bosses. That said, if you talk with recommenders and alums (especially people who worked in the same courthouse as a judge you want to find out about), you'll pretty quickly find out which judges have reputations.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have heard that Alsup (N.D. Cal.) is a notoriously difficult boss. But unlike Kozinski, I haven't heard that he's sadistic. It sounds like he is just a very, very hard worker, and he expects the same of his clerks. If you can endure, it sounds rewarding. But very long hours...his OSCAR listing said something along the lines of "after the first year, you may be considered for one week of vacation" (the clerkship is 18 months). I think weekends are expected, and clerks are expected to arrive in chambers at 7AM or earlier.


I can confirm this. A close friend externed for him and was still expected to work from 7am to at least 5pm, often longer. The clerks would be there well into the night. During big cases (e.g., the recent Apple/Samsung case), clerks often spend the night at the court. But I've heard he is great to work for aside from long hours, treats it like a mentoring opportunity, and will really help you out down the line.

A family friend clerked for Kozinski when he was on the Court of Claims back in the day and had some hilarious stories about him, e.g., offering shots of gin during interviews.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I can confirm this. A close friend externed for him and was still expected to work from 7am to at least 5pm, often longer. The clerks would be there well into the night. During big cases (e.g., the recent Apple/Samsung case), clerks often spend the night at the court. But I've heard he is great to work for aside from long hours, treats it like a mentoring opportunity, and will really help you out down the line.


Funny that he would have his clerks stay late for a case that's before Judge Koh in San Jose. :P Surely you mean the Oracle/Google case.

Anyways, I'd recommend talking to the law journals or career services offices at your school to get ahold of one of them big documents that catalog experiences with judges. I'm more interested in who's a mean person in chambers, rather than who works you hard, which has mostly been discussed here.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm more interested in who's a mean person in chambers, rather than who works you hard, which has mostly been discussed here.


Seconded.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm more interested in who's a mean person in chambers, rather than who works you hard, which has mostly been discussed here.


Seconded.


Yes, there is only room to discuss one or the other in this thread.

Edit: Didn't mean to anon; this is ph14.

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Re: Best and worst judges to clerk for

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm more interested in who's a mean person in chambers, rather than who works you hard, which has mostly been discussed here.


Seconded.

I understand why, but I think people are going to be reluctant to talk about this, even anon on a forum. It's one thing to say a judge works his/her clerks hard - I think judges could take a perverse pride in that. But calling a judge an asshole is just tougher to do. It's the kind of conversation that would work better over PM, except everyone's anon about where they work/where they're applying, that kind of thing.

(But people, feel free to prove me wrong and name names here!)




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