Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

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Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:08 pm

What's the proper protocol for addressing a judicial nominee who's not yet confirmed? "The Honorable" doesn't make sense, as the person isn't a judge. Mr./Ms. seems correct, but perhaps too informal. Thoughts?

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby BVest » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What's the proper protocol for addressing a judicial nominee who's not yet confirmed? "The Honorable" doesn't make sense, as the person isn't a judge. Mr./Ms. seems correct, but perhaps too informal. Thoughts?


As you suspect.

Jane Doe
123 Main Street
Anytown, US 12345

Ms. Doe:

Unless, of course, they've had prior office (judicial or otherwise), in which case you can use the appropriate honorifics.
Last edited by BVest on Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What's the proper protocol for addressing a judicial nominee who's not yet confirmed? "The Honorable" doesn't make sense, as the person isn't a judge. Mr./Ms. seems correct, but perhaps too informal. Thoughts?

I'm not sure what your relationship to the nominee is, but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee. If you have a recommender who knows the nominee (and who can check to see if the nominee is open to receiving clerkship application materials), then use the recommender to pass along your stuff.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:52 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What's the proper protocol for addressing a judicial nominee who's not yet confirmed? "The Honorable" doesn't make sense, as the person isn't a judge. Mr./Ms. seems correct, but perhaps too informal. Thoughts?

I'm not sure what your relationship to the nominee is, but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee. If you have a recommender who knows the nominee (and who can check to see if the nominee is open to receiving clerkship application materials), then use the recommender to pass along your stuff.


She posted on OSCAR.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What's the proper protocol for addressing a judicial nominee who's not yet confirmed? "The Honorable" doesn't make sense, as the person isn't a judge. Mr./Ms. seems correct, but perhaps too informal. Thoughts?

I'm not sure what your relationship to the nominee is, but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee. If you have a recommender who knows the nominee (and who can check to see if the nominee is open to receiving clerkship application materials), then use the recommender to pass along your stuff.


She posted on OSCAR.

Well then there's definitely no problem with submitting your application!

Oh, I agree with BVest about how to address the nominee. Good luck!

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:50 pm

but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee


Disagree. Strongly.

Got two interviews (and 1 offer) from cold-contacting nominees that had nothing on OSCAR. Worst that happens is they send you an email thanking you for your interest and saying they will consider your application if confirmed.

I would encourage folks to aggressively pursue nominees when possible. They get dramatically fewer applications and are usually impressed that you took the initiative to track them down despite their lack of presence on OSCAR.

This is an especially good idea for alumni clerkship candidates applying to nominees that are likely to have openings beginning during the academic year. You don't have to compete with law students, who are not available when the clerkship begins.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee


Disagree. Strongly.

Got two interviews (and 1 offer) from cold-contacting nominees that had nothing on OSCAR. Worst that happens is they send you an email thanking you for your interest and saying they will consider your application if confirmed.

I would encourage folks to aggressively pursue nominees when possible. They get dramatically fewer applications and are usually impressed that you took the initiative to track them down despite their lack of presence on OSCAR.

This is an especially good idea for alumni clerkship candidates applying to nominees that are likely to have openings beginning during the academic year. You don't have to compete with law students, who are not available when the clerkship begins.

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective. My advice was based on a recently confirmed COA judge at the court I clerked on who openly discussed her thoughts on receiving unsolicited clerkship applications while her nomination was pending. She clearly felt that such contact was improper. (So much so that it sounded like she would hold it against the applicant if the applicant reapplied after confirmation.) But after reading your post I think I was wrong to suggest that it's generally "bad form" to cold contact a nominee. It sounds like a good strategy for many.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
but just so you know I think it's bad form to cold contact a pending nominee


Disagree. Strongly.

Got two interviews (and 1 offer) from cold-contacting nominees that had nothing on OSCAR. Worst that happens is they send you an email thanking you for your interest and saying they will consider your application if confirmed.

I would encourage folks to aggressively pursue nominees when possible. They get dramatically fewer applications and are usually impressed that you took the initiative to track them down despite their lack of presence on OSCAR.

This is an especially good idea for alumni clerkship candidates applying to nominees that are likely to have openings beginning during the academic year. You don't have to compete with law students, who are not available when the clerkship begins.


Can't agree more. Got a clerkship I probably didn't have any business getting (and wouldn't get based on who we are interviewing for mine and my co-clerk's replacements) based on the normal factors because my judge had just been confirmed, needed someone quickly, and I was local and fairly qualified.

If you want to clerk, and have the flexibility, you should be applying to nominees like crazy.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby timmyd » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:53 pm

Do you just send a letter, recs, writing sample, résumé like you normally would? Would you suggest sending an unsolicited app to the firm they work for?

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby ResIpsa21 » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:28 pm

To where do you send the application? My clerkship office told me not to apply to judges until confirmed, and only to send an application to the courthouse so that it'll be waiting when the judge shows up there. I was explicitly told not to email nominees or recently confirmed judges directly. I'm a V40 associate but ready to start a clerkship ASAP. What do y'all think?

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Jchance » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:35 pm

ResIpsa21 wrote:To where do you send the application? My clerkship office told me not to apply to judges until confirmed, and only to send an application to the courthouse so that it'll be waiting when the judge shows up there. I was explicitly told not to email nominees or recently confirmed judges directly. I'm a V40 associate but ready to start a clerkship ASAP. What do y'all think?


I think "aggressively" means doing both.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:40 pm

they are lawyers. they work somewhere. use the internet and find out where, send the package there. worst case is that they will have mail forwarding if they have already stopped (which they probably have not)

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:51 pm

ResIpsa21 wrote:To where do you send the application? My clerkship office told me not to apply to judges until confirmed, and only to send an application to the courthouse so that it'll be waiting when the judge shows up there. I was explicitly told not to email nominees or recently confirmed judges directly. I'm a V40 associate but ready to start a clerkship ASAP. What do y'all think?


OP here. Last year, I sent a recently confirmed judge a letter expressing interest. I had worked with the judge previously on one of his/her articles for submission. The judge was quite friendly, and gave me some tips to ensure I ended up at the top of the pile. (And no, the judge hasn't made a hiring decision yet.)

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
ResIpsa21 wrote:To where do you send the application? My clerkship office told me not to apply to judges until confirmed, and only to send an application to the courthouse so that it'll be waiting when the judge shows up there. I was explicitly told not to email nominees or recently confirmed judges directly. I'm a V40 associate but ready to start a clerkship ASAP. What do y'all think?



for that reason, your clerkship office should be the first thing cut when your school inevitably next reduces class size and budget. do it right meow. believe me--it works.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:31 pm

I wonder sometimes if there's a district court judge/COA judge divide about things like contacting pending nominees. Totally anecdotal and it might just be a trick of the personalities I know/hear about, but I get the impression that COA judges are stricter about protocols/procedures than district court judges.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Lexaholik » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:51 pm

What's the downside to doing this? Zero. Upside? Incredibly high. I don't understand why all law students or lawyers don't do this unless it's the fear of disapproval or rejection.

Having said that, a good way to maximize your chances is to have someone the nominee knows and trusts make a call for you. That's how I landed my clerkship which to this day I'm not certain I deserved.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby ResIpsa21 » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:44 pm

zombie associate wrote:What's the downside to doing this? Zero. Upside? Incredibly high. I don't understand why all law students or lawyers don't do this unless it's the fear of disapproval or rejection.

The perceived downside is that you offend the judge by crossing the line and thus lose the opportunity to get the clerkship, which, if you had just waited until the judge was confirmed soliciting applications, you might have gotten. I am not saying this is correct. Just that it explains the phenomenon.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:14 pm

ResIpsa21 wrote:
zombie associate wrote:What's the downside to doing this? Zero. Upside? Incredibly high. I don't understand why all law students or lawyers don't do this unless it's the fear of disapproval or rejection.

The perceived downside is that you offend the judge by crossing the line and thus lose the opportunity to get the clerkship, which, if you had just waited until the judge was confirmed soliciting applications, you might have gotten. I am not saying this is correct. Just that it explains the phenomenon.

Yeah. As I recounted earlier, that one COA judge definitely would hold it against you for submitting an unsolicited application pre-confirmation. After reading the anecdotes shared here, I am persuaded that it will, overall, pay off to be aggressive in contacting pending nominees. But the downside risk isn't zero.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:50 pm

rpupkin wrote:
ResIpsa21 wrote:
zombie associate wrote:What's the downside to doing this? Zero. Upside? Incredibly high. I don't understand why all law students or lawyers don't do this unless it's the fear of disapproval or rejection.

The perceived downside is that you offend the judge by crossing the line and thus lose the opportunity to get the clerkship, which, if you had just waited until the judge was confirmed soliciting applications, you might have gotten. I am not saying this is correct. Just that it explains the phenomenon.

Yeah. As I recounted earlier, that one COA judge definitely would hold it against you for submitting an unsolicited application pre-confirmation. After reading the anecdotes shared here, I am persuaded that it will, overall, pay off to be aggressive in contacting pending nominees. But the downside risk isn't zero.


Have heard similar stories. I'm also heading to a newly appointed D.Ct judge at the end of my COA clerkship, and know that my next judge would not have approved of a deluge of apps prior to her confirmation. She thought it was presumptuous and improper to think about hiring before she was confirmed.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:32 am

She thought it was presumptuous and improper to think about hiring before she was confirmed.


This is not the same as holding it against applicants, which would be entirely silly to do.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
She thought it was presumptuous and improper to think about hiring before she was confirmed.


This is not the same as holding it against applicants, which would be entirely silly to do.

I mean, I doubt the judge would go out and blackball someone for doing this, but you're not going to hire the applicant you think is presumptuous and improper.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:20 am

but you're not going to hire the applicant you think is presumptuous and improper.


No, the judge (or, at least, some judges) thinks it would be presumptuous and improper for them to hire. They don't think the applicant is being presumptuous and improper. That is silly.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby ResIpsa21 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:48 am

Anonymous User wrote:
but you're not going to hire the applicant you think is presumptuous and improper.


No, the judge (or, at least, some judges) thinks it would be presumptuous and improper for them to hire. They don't think the applicant is being presumptuous and improper. That is silly.

First of all, why is this anon?

Second, personally speaking, I would find it rude to have people asking me for stuff that I can't even give out yet. I understand that some judicial nominees don't feel that way, but I don't think it's "silly" at all. In what world outside of judicial clerkships is it normal to ask someone for a job at a place where that person doesn't even work yet?

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
but you're not going to hire the applicant you think is presumptuous and improper.

No, the judge (or, at least, some judges) thinks it would be presumptuous and improper for them to hire. They don't think the applicant is being presumptuous and improper. That is silly.

I'm not sure what point you think you're making in carrying on this argument. (Also, you're abusing the anon feature.) Some judges--likely a small minority of judges--apparently think it reflects poorly upon an applicant to send unsolicited materials when the judge's nomination is pending. Are these judges being "silly"? Perhaps. But it's a reality and I don't see why potential applicants should not get a complete picture of the benefits and risks of a certain application strategy.

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Re: Addressing Judicial Nominees in Cover Letters

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
but you're not going to hire the applicant you think is presumptuous and improper.


No, the judge (or, at least, some judges) thinks it would be presumptuous and improper for them to hire. They don't think the applicant is being presumptuous and improper. That is silly.

Oh, I get it now. It seemed that people in this thread were reporting that there were judges who considered it inappropriate for applicants to even send in materials, so I conflated what you were saying with that. But you yourself said she disapproved of people sending apps pre-confirmation (if I have the anons straight).



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