“But what if you don’t get the clerkship with Judge Gottlieb?” I asked Jeremy. “You’d rather clerk with Judge Barzun than not clerk at all….”
“So the interview ends because Barzun has to go to a dinner party with her husband,” said Jeremy. “She tells me she’ll walk out with me. One of her clerks comes downstairs with us too — Craig Silver, a Yalie, graduated two years ago — do you know him?”
“No, although everyone says he was a great managing editor on the Journal.”
“Anyway, we all go outside. We’re at the corner of Seventh and Mission — totally sketch neighborhood, by the way, as you’ll see when you go up to S.F. for hearings with Stinson. We’re there maybe a minute or two, and then this huge black Mercedes S-class pulls up right in front of us….”
“That’s quite a nice car, especially on a federal judge’s salary!”
“A uniformed driver hops out and opens the rear door, while bowing — it’s ridiculous, I mean, his torso is at like a right angle to his legs, a really low bow. Barzun steps in, the driver closes the door, and zoom, they’re off!”
“That’s awesome, she is literally a limousine liberal,” I said, tickled by the knowledge. “Where does her money come from? Circuit judges earn less than $200,000. You can’t pay for a Mercedes and driver on that kind of pay.”
“I found out from Craig as we were standing around after she drove off. It’s thanks to her husband, a guy named Pierre Barzun — a super-successful wine merchant, also owns some vineyards up in Napa, distant relation to Jacques Barzun I think. According to Craig, Barzun — Judge Barzun, that is — can’t drive for shit. So every day, the car and driver come to pick her up. And every day when she leaves chambers, she makes one of her clerks walk her downstairs and wait with her until the car and driver show up. Can you believe that?”
“Well, it is a terrible neighborhood, and she is a woman by herself….”
“Yeah, and she’s apparently a workaholic, so sometimes she’s in chambers until ten or eleven at night. And so her clerks have to stay at work until she leaves, so they’re there until ten or eleven. Does she really need a law clerk to be her escort? Can’t she call one of the courthouse security guards? I mean, people don’t bust their tails at Harvard and Stanford Law so they can serve as bodyguards and valets. And it’s not like some wimpy-ass law clerk would even offer much protection! I mean, really, you can’t fend off a mugger by waving around a highlighter and smacking him on the head with your Bluebook.”
“What else did Craig tell you about Judge Barzun? In terms of what she’s liking to work for?” This struck me as a good opportunity to get some intelligence on the enemy.
“He was a little guarded, actually. I thought that he’d open up to me after telling me about her husband and the car and driver and everything. But I think he just said that as harmless chitchat. When I asked about his clerkship and the work, he was pretty cautious. You know how clerks can be when talking about their judges. That judge is going to be on your résumé for the rest of your life — at the very least a reference, possibly a recommender, maybe even a mentor. It’s not in your interest to badmouth the judge you clerked for. Why do you think you hardly ever see negative write-ups in the clerkship evaluation forms in the career services office?”
“Interesting….” And Jeremy did have a point. The vast majority of clerkship write-ups were positive, even gushing.
“Then I say good-bye to Craig and hail a cab to the airport,” Jeremy said. “Since Barzun did not offer me a lift to SFO in her Mercedes.”
I laughed. The line wasn’t that funny, but Jeremy had great delivery — this ridiculous, completely over-the-top way of saying things.
“I get into this cab,” said Jeremy, “and then my phone starts ringing. It’s a restricted number. I’m thinking it’s Barzun, calling to offer me a job.”
“Oh no! I mean, oh yes?”
“I’m thinking of what I’m supposed to say. I mean, everyone says you’re not supposed to turn down a clerkship offer. And I did accept Kenote on the spot for the year after next. But it would kill me if I accepted Barzun and then Gottlieb called with an offer. I wonder if I can ask her for 24 hours….”
“True,” I said, “people do that — ask for time to consider an offer. I think it’s best practice, though, to accept on the spot if you can see yourself clerking at all for the judge.”
“Yeah, but it would just slay me if I wound up with Barzun when I could have had Gottlieb. So, anyway, I take a big gulp and pick up the phone….”
“And it’s Sheldon Gottlieb! Calling to offer me a clerkship! Starting right after we graduate!”
“That’s awesome! Congratulations!”
“I was thrilled. I still am thrilled. I bought this new Jack Spade” — he gestured at the orange messenger bag on the seat next to him – “as a congratulatory gift for myself.”
“Of course you did. And you deserve it.”
“Ha, don’t I? But you know what this means, Audrey.”
“We’ll be clerking together on the Ninth Circuit, both in Pasadena, at the same time. See you in Pasadena, girl!”
“Yes — and it will be so great to have you there! We’ll have a lot of fun together.”
“We will,” said Jeremy, “but at the same time, you know, you are working for the forces of darkness. Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean that Gottlieb and I are going to let you and Stinson force your radical right-wing agenda on the western United States.”
He was smiling, but Jeremy was enough of a liberal so that he actually meant some fraction of what he was saying.
“Oh please! Judge Stinson and I are moderates. We just want to interpret and apply the law as written. It’s you and Judge Gottlieb who are the judicial activists.”
“Judicial activism? Come now, Audrey, we all know that that’s a meaningless term. A political slogan. ‘Judicial activism’ is in the eye of the beholder. Whenever some politician disagrees with a judge’s ruling, he just labels that judge a ‘judicial activist.’ I think we’ll learn during our clerkships that things are a lot more complicated than that.”
“I’m not as much of a cynic as you,” I said. “The term can be abused, but there is such a thing as judicial activism. And judicial restraint. And ‘the law’ — and it’s not just politics by other means or the whims of the judges.”
Were we having a mini-argument? I didn’t want to argue with Jeremy; we should be celebrating each other’s good news. I paused and pretended to take a sip out of my paper coffee cup (which was empty).
“Your views are duly noted, counselor,” said Jeremy. “Clerking together on the Ninth will give us a chance to see how our theories play out in real life. I guess we’ll see what we both think at the end of the year.”
He polished off what remained of his soy latte and smacked his lips dramatically.
“Anyway,” he continued, “even though clerking is supposed to be awesome, they say it can be hard at times. I’m just glad that we’ll be going through it together.”
He reached across the table, grabbed my left hand — the one not holding my coffee — and squeezed. I squeezed back, awkwardly. (Physical displays of affection make me uncomfortable.)
“Absolutely,” I said. “It’s going to be an interesting year.”