Federal judges are working to make highly sought-after law clerkships and judicial internships more accessible to a diverse pool of law students.
Among the hiring tools are a digital hiring platform, partnerships with legal organizations, and outreach events for potential applicants.
“Diversity on the bench and among our courtroom and chambers staff is critical to serving a diverse population,” said Judge Raymond A. Jackson, of the Eastern District of Virginia. “It’s important that the court is reflective of the community it serves.”
Judiciary clerkships and internships are highly coveted positions in which law school students and recent graduates gain valuable career experience and directly assist judges in legal work, such as drafting memoranda, orders, and opinions.
“Taking steps to broaden the range of applicants that we receive for clerkships helps make the process more equitable for people of different backgrounds and gives more people a pathway into a career in the legal field that may not otherwise be available to them,” said Chief Judge Laura Taylor Swain, of the Southern District of New York.
“My clerkship with Judge Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman to serve on the federal bench, shaped my understanding of the intersection of law and life, and of how service to the federal Judiciary as a law clerk can open doors to professional opportunities for people from all backgrounds,” she said.
Many judges are using the recently updated Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR), an online database that enables candidates to upload applications and send them to all judges with open clerkship positions. OSCAR’s improved user-friendly interface makes the application and selection process easier than ever for judges and prospective clerks.
“OSCAR makes the hiring process more accessible and transparent, giving judges the opportunity to view applicants of all backgrounds from law schools across the country,” Swain said. “The service effectively broadens the applicant pool beyond a posting to the court’s website or through word of mouth, making it more likely to attract a diverse group of highly qualified candidates.”
Chief Judge Juan R. Sánchez, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is mindful not to limit his clerkship hiring criteria to certain law schools, class rankings, or general experiences.
“There are many qualifications that make a great law clerk, and by keeping an open mind, I am able to find talented law clerks with a variety of different backgrounds and experiences,” Sánchez said. “I’ve been able to select for these interviews bright people with excellent academic records, compelling personal stories, and unique experiences from a broad spectrum of candidates. The key is to invest the time to look through all of the applications. I choose not to overlook candidates, and because of this, I’ve been successful in hiring law clerks who reflect the many communities the Judiciary serves.”
To make the judicial clerkship hiring process more transparent and uniform, some judges are also participating in the Judiciary’s Federal Law Clerk Hiring Pilot Plan. The voluntary plan, extended through June 2022, ensures that all judges receive applications on the same day and gives them a 24-hour window to review applications before they can begin the interview process. The plan also delays the hiring of students for clerkships until after their second year of law school.
“Law school deans have told me that the plan has led to a more diverse pool of applicants and has helped level the playing field, especially as to those law students who enter law school without any background in the law and really shine in their second year of law school,” said Judge Robert A. Katzmann, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, who sits on the Ad Hoc Committee on Law Clerk Hiring, which works to make the hiring process more transparent and uniform.
Remote interviewing prompted by the pandemic helped eliminate travel costs of in-person interviewing, and many judges look to continue the option beyond the pandemic to help alleviate the financial burdens that travel may impose on applicants.
Judges also regularly attend events geared to getting people interested in the law, often partnering with law schools, local bar associations, and pipeline organizations to generate a pool of qualified applicants from different backgrounds.
“Exposing students to the law early on through outreach, internships, and collaboration with bar associations and pipeline organizations is key to building a more diverse Judiciary and diverse group of legal professionals,” said Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Bailey, of the District of Massachusetts. “I enjoy participating in these events and showing young people that a career in the law or as a judge is attainable. I like to tell students that ‘judges put their pants on one leg at a time too.’”
Pipeline organizations, like Just the Beginning (JTB), encourage students from underrepresented groups to pursue careers and leadership opportunities in the law. For the past 10 years, the Judiciary has partnered with JTB to expand the pool of qualified applicants for judges to consider for judicial internships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 92 students selected for internships last summer were transitioned to virtual work with judges across the country.
Some judges also participate in JTB’s Share the Wealth Clerkship Program, which acts as a selection and referral program to help judges attract diverse candidates for clerkships. Judge Jackson, who has worked with JTB for the last 15 years, currently serves as the clerkship program coordinator helping to arrange interviews for candidates with interested judges.
“Having people from different cultural backgrounds working alongside you changes perceptions and broadens your understanding of the world around you,” Bailey said. “The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges has had an excellent experience partnering with groups like Just the Beginning to help us diversify the pipeline of applicants applying for opportunities in the courts.”
Some judges say that a more diverse workplace makes them better judges in the long run.
“Each of us are shaped by our own unique life experiences, and those life experiences shape our decision-making,” Jackson said. “Working with people of different life experiences better shapes our understanding of the unique circumstances facing the many different people that appear before the court.”
Related Topics: Judges & Judgeships
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- Aircraft Noise: Information on a Potential Mandated Transition to Quieter AirplanesBy Sam NewsAugust 20, 2020Based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data and GAO estimates, most U.S. large commercial jet airplanes are certificated at the minimum required stage 3 noise standards, but nearly all of them are able to meet more stringent noise standards. Sixty-three percent of large commercial airplanes in the United States are certificated as meeting the stage 3 standards; however, 87 percent of them were manufactured with technologies that are able to meet more recent and stringent stage 4 or 5 standards as currently configured, according to FAA's 2017 analysis. By analyzing updated data from airlines and aviation manufacturers, GAO estimated that this proportion is even higher: 96 percent of large commercial airplanes are able to meet stage 4 or 5 standards (see figure). According to FAA officials and aviation stakeholders, the primary reason many large commercial airplanes certificated as stage 3 produce lower than stage 3 noise levels is because engine and airframe technology has outpaced the implementation of noise standards. More recently, some airlines have accelerated retirement of certain airplanes, some of which are certificated as stage 3, due to the decrease in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the generally smaller regional commercial jets (i.e., generally with less than 90 seats), 86 percent are able to meet stage 4 or stage 5 standards, according to manufacturers' data. With regard to general aviation (which are used for personal or corporate flights), 73 percent of the jet airplanes in that fleet are able to meet the more stringent stage 4 or 5 standards, according to manufacturers' data. GAO Estimate of The Number of Large Airplanes in the U.S. Commercial Fleet That Are Able to Meet Stage 3 or Stage 4 and 5 Noise Standards, January 2020 According to stakeholders GAO interviewed, a phase-out of jet airplanes that are certificated as meeting stage 3 standards would provide limited noise reduction and limited other benefits, and could be costly and present other challenges. A phase-out could require recertificating the vast majority of stage 3 airplanes to comply with stage 4 or 5 standards. This process could be costly for operators and manufacturers but would provide little reduction in noise. Further, airplanes currently unable to meet more stringent standards would require modifications or face retirement. For older airplanes that could not be recertificated to meet stage 4 or 5 standards, some operators could incur costs for replacement airplanes sooner than originally planned. Although stakeholders indicated that a phase-out would not substantially reduce noise, they identified other limited benefits newer airplanes generate, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption. Although advances in technology have led to quieter aircraft capable of meeting increasingly stringent noise standards, airport noise remains a concern. FAA regulates aircraft noise by ensuring compliance with relevant noise standards. In 1990, federal law required large jet airplanes to comply with stage 3 noise standards by 1999, leading to a phase-out of the noisiest airplanes (stage 1 and 2 airplanes). Later, federal law required smaller airplanes to comply with stage 3 standards by 2016. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to review a potential phase-out of stage 3 airplanes—the loudest aircraft currently operating in the United States. This report describes (1) the proportion of stage 3 airplanes in the U.S. fleet, and what proportion of these stage 3 airplanes are able to meet more stringent noise standards and (2) selected stakeholders' views on the potential benefits, costs, and challenges of phasing out stage 3 airplanes. GAO reviewed FAA's analysis of December 2017 fleet data, analyzed January 2020 fleet data from select airlines and airframe and engine manufacturers, and interviewed FAA officials. GAO also interviewed a non-generalizable sample of 35 stakeholders, including airlines; airframe and engine manufacturers; airports; and industry associations, selected based on fleet and noise data, stakeholder recommendations, or prior GAO knowledge. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Antitrust Division Announces Updates To Civil Investigative Demand Forms And Deposition ProcessBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division announced today that the Antitrust Division has implemented two uniform updates to its Civil Investigative Demand (CID) forms and deposition process:[Read More…]
- Once wanted felon sentenced for illegal gun possessionBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021A 42-year-old Corpus [Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Veterans AffairsBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 33 priority recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since then, VA has implemented 13 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to ensure that veterans receive evidence-based mental health treatment. In May 2021, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for VA, bringing the total number to 28. These recommendations involve the following areas: response to the COVID-19 pandemic; veterans’ access to timely health care; the veterans community care program; human capital management; information technology; appeals reform for disability benefits; quality of care and patient safety; veteran suicide prevention; efficiency within the VA health care system; national policy documents; procurement policies and practices; and capital planning. Addressing the high priority recommendations identified above has the potential to significantly improve VA's operations, including those related to COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- NASA CubeSat Will Shine a Laser Light on the Moon’s Darkest CratersBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020To support the next wave [Read More…]
- Owner of Bitcoin Exchange Sentenced to Prison for Money LaunderingBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2021A Bulgarian national who was convicted by a federal jury for his role in a transnational and multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud American victims was sentenced today to 121 months in prison.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Recognizes International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital MutilationBy Sam NewsFebruary 10, 2021Female genital mutilation (FGM) has broad implications for the health and human rights of women and girls, as well as societies at large.[Read More…]
- Attorney General William P. Barr Announces the Appointment of Gregg N. Sofer as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of TexasBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020Attorney General William [Read More…]
- Seven MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Violent Crime and Drug Distribution ConspiracyBy Sam NewsNovember 19, 2020A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, returned a 16-count superseding indictment Wednesday, charging seven MS-13 gang members with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and serious firearm-related offenses, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.[Read More…]
- Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Report 2020By Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020
- Political Scientist Author Charged With Acting As An Unregistered Agent Of The Iranian GovernmentBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, also known as “Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi,” with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Afrasiabi was arrested yesterday at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, and will make his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal.[Read More…]
- The United States Partners with Australia and Japan to Expand Reliable and Secure Digital Connectivity in PalauBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020
- Civilian-Military Interaction in Conflicts: Best Practices and Perceptions (Brown University)By Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Senior State Department Officials Briefing to Traveling PressBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020Istanbul, Turkey [Read More…]