Ed. note: Apologies for the delay between this installment and the last one. As you can see, I’ve moved from a Wednesday/Sunday posting schedule to something more… sporadic.
I spent Tuesday morning reading the briefs and doing some research for Hamadani, an immigration case involving a Pakistani man seeking political asylum in the United States. The immigrant, who overstayed illegally years ago but went on to start a successful small business (a grocery store), as well as to raise two kids here, seemed sympathetic. But the legal standard for granting asylum struck me as stringent.
So immersed in my reading, I didn’t realize it was half past noon until James’s tall, slender figure materialized in the doorway of my windowless office.
How could I say no to a sandy-haired boy with blue-green eyes, flawless skin, and great teeth?
I had brought my lunch to work, and so had my co-clerks. Not only was that the economical thing to do, but there weren’t many dining options in the courthouse’s residential neighborhood in Pasadena.
The chambers had a small but well-equipped kitchen. After collecting my salad from the refrigerator and microwaving my tomato soup, I joined my co-clerks around a conference table in the library.
“So,” said James to me, “are you working on any interesting cases?”
“I’ve just started reading the briefs in this immigration case….”
“Audrey,” interrupted Amit, “he said interesting cases.”
Larry guffawed at Amit’s bitchy quip. Amit seemed nice enough when we met yesterday; what was his problem today?
“I never took immigration law,” I said, “so I’m finding it interesting, since it’s new to me.”
“Then you’ll find almost all of your cases interesting,” said Amit. “You went to Yale, right? The Ninth Circuit doesn’t get that many Fourteenth Amendment cases. Or Con Law cases. Or cases about feminist post-structuralist legal theory.”
I smiled as sweetly as I could.
“Yale does have some incredible theoretical offerings,” I said, “but you can take many black-letter courses as well. I took Admin, Antitrust, Biz Org, Crim Law, Crim Pro, Legislation, Sentencing…. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Oh yes, all the statutory classes: Bankruptcy, Securities Regulation, Tax, Advanced Tax. And I really enjoyed ERISA, actually…”
James was trying — unsuccessfully — to suppress a grin. Amit was staring intently at the ingredients list on his bag of potato chips. Was the former spelling bee champ looking for more words to memorize?
“Yeah,” said Larry, “but those were the Yale versions of those classes. All theory, I bet. At Loyola, we learned the law. Like, the kind you find on the books. Not all your airy-fairy crap.”
I nodded politely, but then stopped; did nodding make me look patronizing? I looked at James and Amit, who were both silent. Nobody knew what to say to Loyola Larry.
I tasted a spoonful of my soup, found it too hot, and made a mental note to knock ten seconds off the microwave time in the future. Finally, James stepped up to the plate.
“It sounds like you learned a lot at Loyola,” he said, miraculously managing to sound friendly rather than patronizing. “Did you enjoy law school?”
James — what a mensch! A fat pitch, right over home plate. Of course Larry enjoyed law school!
In order to land a Ninth Circuit clerkship — with a feeder judge, no less — Larry must have blown the roof off of Loyola. And people who graduate at the top of the class tend to look back with fondness at their law school years (not unlike schlubby, middle-aged former jocks looking back at senior year of high school).
“Actually, no,” said Larry. “I kind of hated it.”
Larry was a weird one. He wasn’t making eye contact with us during conversation, nor was he looking down at his food. He seemed to be staring at the far wall of the library.
After letting that response hang in the air for a while, Amit broke the silence — and asked what we were all thinking.
“But you must have done very well in law school, right? To land a Ninth Circuit clerkship with Judge Stinson?”
Larry laughed, loudly — too loudly. This was still a library, even if we had temporarily converted it to a cafeteria.
“Not really,” Larry said. “I wasn’t on law review. I graduated in the middle of the class. I got this job through my dad. My last name is Krasner — as in Jonathan Krasner.”
Ah, Jonathan Krasner — the two-time Oscar-winning director, whose critically acclaimed films also managed to make tons of money. Krasner one of the biggest clients of Robert Stinson, the Hollywood super-agent married to my boss.
“My dad and the Stinsons go way back,” Larry continued. “Bob Stinson has represented my dad his whole career. So when I went into my third year of law school without a job lined up for after graduation, my dad called the judge and got me this clerkship. I don’t think I’m going to be that into clerking — I really want to go into entertainment law — but hey, a job’s a job. And clerking’s supposed to be great for the résumé, even if you don’t go into litigation. I’m just glad my dad was able to hook me up. Isn’t that awesome?”
The first thought that came to my mind was far from awesome: James and Amit and I would end up doing Larry’s work for him. And the second thought: one of my colleagues in this coveted job got the post through sheer connections, not merit.
But the third thought actually was awesome: there was no way in hell that Larry was getting a Supreme Court clerkship. Judge Stinson hired him as a favor to his dad, but she wouldn’t pick him as her favored clerk, the one she would push to the justices. Cronyism might get you to the Ninth Circuit, but it couldn’t get you to One First Street.
My competitors for Judge Stinson’s favor were Amit and James. I had nothing to fear from Loyola Larry.
One down, two to go.
<—Previously: 18: Training