Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

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littlewing67

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Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by littlewing67 » Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:32 pm

Looking into COA judges as a liberal (very liberal interested in civil rights work). Wondering if it is worth it to apply to conservative/rep. appointed COA judges? Anyone who has done this willing to share their experience? Thanks!

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:55 pm

I will preface by saying I have not started my clerkship yet, but I am someone who is pretty liberal clerking for a conservative judge. This is a pretty personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer. There are some people who will not clerk for judges that have divergent ideological views (on aggregate) to themselves and those who are not concerned with clerking for those who have staunchly differing views. But in reality, you're likely not going to work on ground breaking, ideologically-based cases (at least on a daily basis). My recommenders also expressed the same message to me. Most cases will have clearly established paths or revolve around generally non-ideological issues and in those instances a judge's ideology is not nearly as important. That helped to convince me to expand my application base and I started to look more closely at judges, their decisions, and their background when developing my application strategy. Personally, I think that that was the right move and I found a lot of judges that I would be excited to clerk for even if we don't mirror views on a variety of issues.

ughbugchugplug

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by ughbugchugplug » Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:29 pm

I’m liberal and I clerked for a very conservative appeals judge. It wasn’t a problem. Just don’t bring up politics and realize your role isn’t to change their fundamental beliefs but rather to analyze the law. Sometimes my judge (in my opinion) reached in order to come to a conservative result that wasn’t justified by the law, and I made clear what I thought the law said without accusing them of being biased or whatever. Didn’t change any minds though...

lavarman84

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by lavarman84 » Sun Jan 03, 2021 9:53 pm

I did and had no issues. You might have to hold your tongue at group conversations (dinners, lunches, etc.). But otherwise, it shouldn't be too difficult. Your job is analyze the law and offer a recommendation. The judge can accept or reject your recommendation. From there, your job is to write the opinion the way the judge wants it. He or she was the person confirmed to the bench, not you. I guess if you can't accept that role, yeah, don't clerk for a conservative.

FWIW, I made an effort to understand how my judge viewed the law and analyze the law consistently with that. That doesn't mean there weren't times where my more liberal side came out, but my judge said he/she really valued my judgment near the end of my clerkship. That meant a lot to me.

That all said, my judge, while conservative, wasn't a zealot. I imagine the job could be harder if I were working for a zealot. So I would recommend doing some research on the judges. There are a handful of conservative judges I would not have been willing to clerk for. But I doubt they'd have hired me anyways.

One final note, there aren't that many truly politically controversial cases. And if it's an issue like abortion that you know could be a problem, you could always allow another law clerk to take that case (in my chambers, the law clerks were the ones who split up the cases). As others have stated, the vast majority will either have binding precedent or be an issue that doesn't much implicate politics.

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 03, 2021 10:22 pm

I've never talked to someone who regretted clerking for a conservative judge as a liberal. I'm doing this and talked to lots of people and all of them said it isn't a big deal. In the current environment, it's increasingly a necessity for liberal students--see the recent post about UChicago's liberals mostly clerking for conservatives this year.

That said, not all conservative judges are equally conservative. Most deeply ideological ones ("zealots")--think Jim Ho or Naomi Rao--won't hire liberal students anyway so you don't need to worry about them. There's pretty extensive discussion scattered around this forum about which of the Trump appointees hire liberal clerks that's worth reading.

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drwatson2573

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by drwatson2573 » Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:43 pm

littlewing67 wrote:
Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:32 pm
Looking into COA judges as a liberal (very liberal interested in civil rights work). Wondering if it is worth it to apply to conservative/rep. appointed COA judges? Anyone who has done this willing to share their experience? Thanks!
Interested in this from the inverse standpoint and for district court judges. Am a Fed Soc leaning guy and am heavily considered applying to Obama/Clinton/future Biden appointees at the district court level.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by Elston Gunn » Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:18 pm

drwatson2573 wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:43 pm
littlewing67 wrote:
Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:32 pm
Looking into COA judges as a liberal (very liberal interested in civil rights work). Wondering if it is worth it to apply to conservative/rep. appointed COA judges? Anyone who has done this willing to share their experience? Thanks!
Interested in this from the inverse standpoint and for district court judges. Am a Fed Soc leaning guy and am heavily considered applying to Obama/Clinton/future Biden appointees at the district court level.
Unless you have very extreme views and it will bother you to write opinions that aren’t in line with them, I really wouldn’t worry about it. District court work is rarely political, except for I guess criminal sentencing, which many judges don’t even really involve their clerks in.

GoneSouth

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Re: Clerking for judge with opposing political views?

Post by GoneSouth » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:36 am

drwatson2573 wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:43 pm
littlewing67 wrote:
Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:32 pm
Looking into COA judges as a liberal (very liberal interested in civil rights work). Wondering if it is worth it to apply to conservative/rep. appointed COA judges? Anyone who has done this willing to share their experience? Thanks!
Interested in this from the inverse standpoint and for district court judges. Am a Fed Soc leaning guy and am heavily considered applying to Obama/Clinton/future Biden appointees at the district court level.
This is definitely a non-issue at the district court level. With the possible exception of D.D.C., 95%+ of what you’d be working on as a district court clerk has no political valence. As long as you think you could get along with someone with different political views from a personality standpoint, I wouldn’t be concerned about it.

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