Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

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Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 03, 2013 11:52 am

So it looks like I might possibly land a district court clerkship. I'm pretty excited about that, considering that I am definitely no lock or sure thing for one of these positions. My biggest concern is that it seems like not everyone loves this judge. He's taken some shot from above (COA) and from below (lawyers who come before him). Is it possible that clerking for a judge who's not exactly beloved can nullify the career benefits of a clerkship or even hurt one's career? If it matters, I have a job so it's not like it's this or nothing; I've just always really wanted to clerk.

lolwat
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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby lolwat » Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:52 pm

I don't think so, but it really depends. You're always going to have some people that don't like any given judge... that's just the nature of it. A losing side isn't always going to feel like they got a fair shake. And some appellate judges just really like smashing down district court judges (and lawyers, and well, everyone they can), I think that's particularly true in the 7th Circuit. If it's a circuit that does that kind of stuff fairly often I wouldn't put too much stock in it.

That being said, I think there might be some CDCA judges I'd be just a little wary of. But eh.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby JusticeJackson » Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:55 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:15 pm

lolwat wrote:I don't think so, but it really depends. You're always going to have some people that don't like any given judge... that's just the nature of it. A losing side isn't always going to feel like they got a fair shake. And some appellate judges just really like smashing down district court judges (and lawyers, and well, everyone they can), I think that's particularly true in the 7th Circuit. If it's a circuit that does that kind of stuff fairly often I wouldn't put too much stock in it.

That being said, I think there might be some CDCA judges I'd be just a little wary of. But eh.


What CDCA judges may I ask are you thinking of? I worked at the CDCA, and all the judges seemed reputable.

To OP: I don't think a judge's bad reputation will hurt you. The only time I think it could is if your judge got a bad reputation for doing something like this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/0 ... 06753.html. But even then, I don't think it can hurt you that much because people aren't dumb and they aren't going to think you are the same as your judge in all ways. Plus, you probably still will do good and valuable work for any judge, no matter what his or her reputation, beliefs, actions are.

TL;DR: I'd rather have a fed clerkship with a judge with a bad reputation than no clerkship at all.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby lolwat » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:54 pm

I definitely agree with "clerkship > no clerkship" regardless of the judge, and I also don't think people would hold it against you re: which judge you clerk for. I also think I would've taken any CDCA clerkship, and most people (rightfully) would as well. The CDCA judges I was thinking of were Real and Anderson.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:08 pm

I would not clerk for this Judge unless I didn't have a paying job otherwise, even if it meant no clerkship. Really, really bad reputation that will follow you. People won't even cite his opinions, even when they support their cause. I know people who applied to all the judges in CA, got an interview with him, and was advised strongly to decline by faculty members even though no other interviews had yet materialized.

FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Real

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:10 pm

I agree with others that people understand that a clerkship is a clerkship, that you are not the judge, and that even if the judge is awful you get valuable experience. In that sense, I don't think working for even a reviled judge reflects badly on you. (If I encountered someone who had clerked for such a judge I'd consider them more a survivor than a collaborator!) But you do have to think about whether you want to spend a year working for someone you can't respect/agree with, or with whom the work experience is going to be miserable. I don't think it would hurt your reputation necessarily, but a year's a long time to be miserable or to have to grapple with disagreeing with your boss - I could see not putting yourself in that position. (And I think there's a difference between warning people they might not want to work for this judge and saying that the judge's reputation will follow them.)

I also think to figure this out, you're best off talking to former clerks for the judge, if you can find them, rather than just asking about the judge's general reputation. There's a judge in my district who - though no Real - people criticize for various reasons, but I understand his clerks to find the experience incredibly valuable. (Although the criticisms aren't directly about his ethics, so a little different.)

(I hadn't come across Real before. I can't imagine what it must be like to have been on the bench since 1966.)

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 04, 2013 1:35 am

So here's the deal. I'm wrapping up a clerkship in a big non-NYC market. I'm going to a big firm in a secondary (not NYC/DC/LA/SF/Chicago) market. I interviewed with judges in the market before accepting the job. When I talked to people at my (future) firm after accepting the offer, I let it slip that I had interviews lined up with judges that I cancelled. The attorneys were really up front that clerking for this judge or that one would have been counterproductive. They said his awful reputation would have counteracted any bump I would have gotten for clerking for a federal judge in that particular market. Maybe they were just trying to make me feel good.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:38 am

Ran here to post a link to the same judge as three posters above.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby lolwat » Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:20 am

So here's the deal. I'm wrapping up a clerkship in a big non-NYC market. I'm going to a big firm in a secondary (not NYC/DC/LA/SF/Chicago) market. I interviewed with judges in the market before accepting the job. When I talked to people at my (future) firm after accepting the offer, I let it slip that I had interviews lined up with judges that I cancelled. The attorneys were really up front that clerking for this judge or that one would have been counterproductive. They said his awful reputation would have counteracted any bump I would have gotten for clerking for a federal judge in that particular market. Maybe they were just trying to make me feel good.


I could see how it could thereotically happen under some circumstances. For example, I can see this in smaller markets where everyone knows each other--including the judges. I could also see it happen with state judges if the firm(s) simply get enough cases before them. We do have ex-judges here that have certain reputations even when they were on the bench, and it's POSSIBLE (though still unlikely) that clerking for that judge could have made people pause for a second.

But you're in a secondary market (and not a tiny one), so this is really interesting to me. I guess it's also possible that the opinions written are of poor enough quality, that the judge is backed up with cases and keeps pushing deadlines/rescheduling any hearings sua sponte, etc., that you start wondering WTF kind of clerks that judge hires and WTF they're doing in chambers (because if they're drafting those opinions or writing memos to prepare the judge for the cases, they don't seem to be doing a very good job at it).

I don't know, and I think it would take someone a few years out of a clerkship that has also seen this happen (from a firm/other employer standpoint looking at prospective post-clerkship applicants) to talk intelligently about whether it's a thing.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:35 am

Hey, OP here. I appreciate all of this advice and anecdotes. It seems like a bad reputation may affect you in a few instances, but generally it won't be imputed on you. I guess that's fair. Who says there needs to be a hard and fast rule. Also I've heard nothing of what this judge is like to work for. He may be awful, he may be great.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:43 am

lolwat wrote:
So here's the deal. I'm wrapping up a clerkship in a big non-NYC market. I'm going to a big firm in a secondary (not NYC/DC/LA/SF/Chicago) market. I interviewed with judges in the market before accepting the job. When I talked to people at my (future) firm after accepting the offer, I let it slip that I had interviews lined up with judges that I cancelled. The attorneys were really up front that clerking for this judge or that one would have been counterproductive. They said his awful reputation would have counteracted any bump I would have gotten for clerking for a federal judge in that particular market. Maybe they were just trying to make me feel good.


I could see how it could thereotically happen under some circumstances. For example, I can see this in smaller markets where everyone knows each other--including the judges. I could also see it happen with state judges if the firm(s) simply get enough cases before them. We do have ex-judges here that have certain reputations even when they were on the bench, and it's POSSIBLE (though still unlikely) that clerking for that judge could have made people pause for a second.

But you're in a secondary market (and not a tiny one), so this is really interesting to me. I guess it's also possible that the opinions written are of poor enough quality, that the judge is backed up with cases and keeps pushing deadlines/rescheduling any hearings sua sponte, etc., that you start wondering WTF kind of clerks that judge hires and WTF they're doing in chambers (because if they're drafting those opinions or writing memos to prepare the judge for the cases, they don't seem to be doing a very good job at it).

I don't know, and I think it would take someone a few years out of a clerkship that has also seen this happen (from a firm/other employer standpoint looking at prospective post-clerkship applicants) to talk intelligently about whether it's a thing.

I wonder to what extent people's opinions about clerking for this judge were affected by the fact that this anon was already coming off a clerkship? So clerking for another bad one just because they were in that market wouldn't be helpful?

But yeah, clearly if lawyers are telling you to avoid a certain judge, that means something. And those of us not yet post-clerkship may not be the best resources!

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:54 pm

My advice isn't as clear cut as you might like it to be. Judges are people and that means some of them are good at their jobs even if they are difficult to work with or for, some are great people but not necessarily such great judges and some are great people who are also very good at their jobs (and thus more respected), and some are just jerks all the way around.

Looking at your situation from the standpoint of a future employer, understand that law firms don't hire on the basis of which clerk's judge has the most case citations to their name. A clerkship is simply viewed by lawyers and law firms as a mentoring and training opportunity for the best and the brightest law school graduates and firms hire them because they get lawyers already vetted as being very bright and trained by mostly good and sometimes outstanding jurists at the taxpayers' expense. Obviously, some judges get a better reputation than others for finding and training outstanding clerks with corresponding, highly marketable post-clerkship skills and inside knowledge that the firm doesn't have to supply and those clerks have the most post-clerkship employment options.

Looking at this from the standpoint of a lawyer advising a young 3L about the possibility of clerking, if the lawyer likes you and is trying to help, they will steer you toward the judges most likely to help mentor and train you and away from those that probably won't help as much in that area but simply steering you away from a particular judge won't usually affect your future employment prospects with that firm except in the most extreme and relatively rare circumstances.

I am of the view that almost any clerkship is better than none at all from the standpoint of future employment, if for no other reason, because it marks you as a someone who made it into a pretty exclusive club. However, the operative word here is "almost" because there are a some judges (fortunately not that many) who are just so horrible in so many ways such as a having a reputation for not knowing or caring what the law is, the way they treat the chambers staff, as well as demeanor issues on the bench toward counsel and the public. If this judge really is one of those, then association with a judge like that could be absolute poison to your career in that employment market because future employers will (correctly) believe that you not only didn't learn anything in the clerkship but probably picked up a lot of bad habits that they would now have to train out of you. If you are really sure that yours is that kind of a judge and not just one who is competent but difficult or demanding to work with, this would be the exception to the usual "any clerkship is better than none" advice I would normally give a 3L or a young lawyer.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:07 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:If this judge really is one of those, then association with a judge like that could be absolute poison to your career in that employment market because future employers will (correctly) believe that you not only didn't learn anything in the clerkship but probably picked up a lot of bad habits that they would now have to train out of you. If you are really sure that yours is that kind of a judge and not just one who is competent but difficult or demanding to work with, this would be the exception to the usual "any clerkship is better than none" advice I would normally give a 3L or a young lawyer.


I'm a "specialty court" clerk and wanted to say that this type of judge absolutely exists, and I know due a friend/former clerk of one.

TL;DR: Our court has a relatively small, intimate bar with a revolving door with clerks and counsel, so the judges' reputations are VERY well known. One of the judges is not respected at all because (according to the reviewing court and the bar) he/she writes incomprehensible opinions, misinterprets seminal cases with unambiguous holdings, and is absolutely horrible to counsel and his/her chambers.

My friend cut a clerkship with this judge 3 months short because it was so unbearable and he/she found out from a previous clerk that being associated with this judge was probably a negative to anyone familiar with the court due to the reasons exact Opinions stated.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby JusticeJackson » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:53 am

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 05, 2013 12:31 pm

I'm the person who had the firm tell him/her that clerking for a local judge with a bad reputation would be counterproductive.

Just to add, I think the answer would have been different if I hadn't already clerked or if I didn't have significant ties to the market. Since I already had both of those boxes checked, clerking for the poorly-reputed judge wouldn't have given me much of a boost, whereas his reputation might have given some people pause. (I think -- this is all extrapolating based on a couple of isolated comments.)

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:24 pm

OP again. Y'all have been great. Seriously. I feel like I have really firm grasp on the situation. I did reach out to a couple people in the area and basically his rep isn't that bad. He does a few things that frustrate local attorneys, but no one dislikes him personally or professionally. I was, for some reason, expecting worse.

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Re: Can a Judge's poor reputation hurt you?

Postby msridiculous447 » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:18 am

The only problem I could foresee would be if the judge you were clerking for had well-known political views that conflicted with your career goals. Like if you clerk for a very conservative judge and want to go be a PD or do DOJ Civil Rights or something like that.




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