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Archive for September, 2012

With everyone pushing to get off the plane, now was not the time to explain to a stranger the power and prestige of law clerks, and how the work that they do, far from being “clerical,” affects the fundamental rights of every American. I said a cordial good-bye to the woman and went on my way.

Inside the terminal, I stopped at a Starbucks for coffee and a (lowfat) blueberry muffin, unlikely to give me stomach trouble and therefore safe to eat before an interview. I had learned, from past experience, not to go to an interview on an empty stomach. During my senior year of college, while I was being interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship, my stomach growled — loudly — and I didn’t get the fellowship. Perhaps there were other reasons, but to this day I blame my audible stomach rumblings.

And that mistake changed the course of my life; had I gotten the Rhodes, everything would have been different….

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I continued reading through Judge Stinson’s bio. I wasn’t surprised to see that she was Order of the Coif — which has nothing to do with hair. It’s a national honor society, like Phi Beta Kappa, but for law students. The other accolades were more recent, recognizing her work as a litigator at the O’Melveny law firm or her work as a judge. Most judges have a passel of awards — shockingly, lawyers love to bestow honors upon judges — but Stinson’s list of accolades was longer than most, especially considering her relatively young age.

Next up: a listing of her noteworthy rulings. In a number of cases, Stinson took a position — sometimes in dissent, disagreeing with her fellow judges — that was then vindicated by the Supreme Court. She could be described as fairly pro-defendant in civil cases and somewhat pro-government in criminal cases.

Among the cases, this one jumped out at me:

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I ended up with a window seat on my flight out to Los Angeles to interview with Judge Stinson. Since I had booked on short notice, I was stuck near the back of the plane, close enough that I could smell the lavatories’ mix of cleanser and other substances. But at least I wasn’t stuck in a middle seat; in fact, the middle seat next to me was empty, a rare thing these days. The relative comfort allowed me to concentrate for most of the flight, reading print-outs of newspaper articles about Judge Stinson, her most noteworthy opinions, and the generally glowing clerkship reviews from the Yale career services office written by former Stinson clerks, which only made me want the position more than I already did. (One line that stuck in my mind: “The worst part about clerking on the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Stinson is that I probably won’t have a job that’s this interesting, and a boss who’s this awesome, until many years later in my legal career — if ever.”)

An elderly Asian woman in a red sweater set was in the aisle seat of my row. After the beverage service — water for me (too early for Diet Coke), hot tea for her — she looked over at me and smiled.

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“I have three interviews,” Jeremy said. “First up is Paul Kenote.”

“You applied to a district court judge?”

“I’m willing to make an exception for a Yale Law grad who clerked for the Supreme Court. And who’s a genius — which, of course, Kenote is, as a Yalie who clerked for SCOTUS. And, most importantly, who’s the first openly gay man appointed to the federal bench.”

In addition to serving as an articles editor of the Journal, Jeremy was president of the Yale chapter of OutLaws. He was a cheerleader for all things gay.

“Fair enough,” I said. “Who else are you interviewing with?”

“Sheldon Gottlieb, in Pasadena.”

“Oh nice, congrats — your hero!”

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When I arrived at Yorkside, a casual pizza-and-diner-type eatery just down the street from the law school, Jeremy was already standing outside. He pretended to peruse the menu, even though he’d get the same thing he always got: a cheeseburger, with Swiss and lettuce and tomato, without the bun. His near-pathological aversion to carbs helped him stay extremely thin — perhaps too thin, as I would often tell him. I was a size two, in pretty good shape, but hanging out with Jeremy often made me feel fat.

A waitress, neither surly nor friendly, seated us in a roomy booth near the back, then took our drink order. I was grateful for the relatively private table. We decided to meet at Yorkside precisely to avoid the law school cafeteria (and not just because of the mediocre food). The Yale Law School dining hall, at the height of clerkship application season for third-year law students, was a hive of anxiety and competitiveness. It was simply easier to avoid one’s classmates during this short but stressful period in early September.

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