Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: The Jackson Four
Meet the first class of clerks to the soon-to-be Justice Jackson—plus other SCOTUS clerk updates.
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We don’t know anything more about the identity of the individual who leaked the initial draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the major abortion case soon to be decided by the Supreme Court. All we have is speculation (including mine, to which Professor Laurence Tribe gave a kind shout-out on Twitter).
We do have additional thoughts from at least one justice about the leak. At a conference in Dallas on Friday night, Justice Clarence Thomas talked about the leak as a breach of trust—and implied that the members of the Rehnquist Court trusted each other more than the members of the Roberts Court today.
The Dobbs leak could cause any such distrust to grow. In my last Supreme Court clerk hiring roundup, I offered thoughts on how the Dobbs leak might cause the justices to trust their clerks less if the leaker turns out to be a clerk. I received an interesting response from a reader who clerked for the Court:
I strongly suspect the tear in the Court’s fabric will run left to right between the justices, not north to south between the justices and their clerks. Going forward the justices will always want to trust and protect their own clerks. But they will have far less faith in the (clerks of) nonaligned chambers. Regrettably, the trend of ideological caucusing already picked up in recent years, and this will accelerate it—leading to less good-faith debate in the building and in the opinions.
If the leaker or leakers aimed to push the Court to act more like Congress, job well done. But it’s a disaster for the Court’s (and the courts’) future.
Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this prediction comes to pass. The Court is not immune to the polarization that has affected so many other institutions—something we’ve known for quite some time, but underscored by recent events.
It sounds like SCOTUS could use a reset. Might we see that this summer, when Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson joins the Court, replaces Justice Stephen Breyer, and becomes Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson?1 As Justice Byron White famously observed, the arrival of each new justice gives rise to “a different court”—and a somewhat different court might be welcome right about now.
Ketanji Brown Jackson seems like the kind of new member the Court could use today. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Roxanne Roberts asked Justice-designate Jackson about the fraught point at which she’ll be joining SCOTUS, and Judge Jackson gave this response:
I’m going to approach it in the same way I have approached all of my other judicial appointments: understanding what my role is, understanding the way our system was designed and is supposed to work. I’m an optimistic person by nature.… I will approach this by bringing that and my experience as a judge, my experience as a person in the world, and my interest in making it all work.
I watched most of Judge Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, so I’m not surprised to hear her describe herself as an optimistic person. She exuded more positivity and warmth from the witness chair than pretty much any nominee in recent memory, and these qualities will serve her well at the Court during tense times.
It was also encouraging to hear Justice-designate Jackson’s description of her former boss, Justice Breyer, in the Post interview:
It’s hard to even describe the degree of influence in terms of just his character. He is the ultimate consensus builder, the one who was always trying to forge consensus, build bridges, talk to the justices who disagreed with him about issues. My memories of him are of him constantly coming out of his internal office saying, “I’ve got to go talk to Sandra, I’ve got to go talk to Tony”—Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy—because he was always trying to come up with something that we could all agree on.
Hopefully the future Justice Jackson will take after Justice Breyer in forging consensus and building bridges—to the extent possible given the state of the Court.
Here’s one area where Justice-designate Jackson is already taking after Justice Breyer: law clerk hiring. Meet her first four fantastic clerks:
1. Claire Madill (Michigan 2015 / Fletcher / Nathan (S.D.N.Y.))
2. Kerrel Murray (Stanford 2014 / Tymkovich / Jackson (D.D.C.))
3. Michael Qian (Stanford 2016 / Garland / Bristow / R. Ginsburg)
4. Natalie Salmanowitz (Harvard 2019 / Watford / Jackson (D.D.C.))
Like Justice Breyer (and most of the other justices), Justice-designate Jackson favors graduates of top law schools and former clerks to feeder judges. Also like Justice Breyer, she appears to appreciate diversity in her law clerks: for her first clerk class, she has two women and two men, as Justice Breyer typically did, as well as one Black clerk (Murray) and one Asian-American clerk (Qian).
I predicted that Judge Jackson would do what many justices do in their first Term and hire a mix of clerks who have previously clerked at the Court and favorite former clerks of hers, and she has done that for the most part. Murray and Salmanowitz are former KBJ clerks, and Qian clerked for SCOTUS (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Indeed, Justice-designate Jackson seems to favor experienced clerks: all her hires will arrive at 1 First Street with anywhere from three to eight years of post-law-school experience, and Murray, the most senior among them by graduation year, is already a law professor.2
Here’s a little about each incoming KBJ clerk:
For the past few years, Claire Madill has worked as an appellate public defender (just like Jackson before she took the bench). Madill founded Law Clerks for Workplace Accountability, “an organization comprised of current and former law clerks whose mission is to ensure that the federal judiciary provides a safe workplace environment, free of harassment, for all employees.” She’s a former clerk herself, for Judge William Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Alison Nathan, at the time of the Southern District of New York and now of the Second Circuit. Madill graduated summa cum laude from both Kalamazoo College (2012), where she studied business, and Michigan Law (2015), where she served on the Michigan Law Review.
Kerrel Murray is an associate professor at Columbia Law, where he focuses on constitutional law, election law, and race and the law. Before joining Columbia Law in 2021, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at UNC Law, a fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and an associate in the D.C. office of Covington & Burling. He clerked for Judge Jackson, back when she was a district-court judge, and Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich of the Tenth Circuit—interestingly enough, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, although one who hires the occasional “counter-clerk.” Murray graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia (2011), where he majored in philosophy, and Stanford Law (2014), where he served on the Stanford Law Review.
Michael Qian is an associate in the appellate and Supreme Court practice of Morrison & Foerster, based out of the D.C. office. Before joining MoFo, he clerked for Justice Ginsburg, served as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General, and clerked for Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit. Qian graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College (2011), with a degree in chemistry, and first in his class from Stanford Law (2016), where he was executive editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Natalie Salmanowitz currently works in the appellate practice group at Hogan Lovells. Back in 2018, Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal described her as “a rising star” and “one to watch”—predictions that have proven prescient. Salmanowitz graduated from Dartmouth College, where she studied neuroscience, and Harvard Law (2019), magna cum laude. She clerked on the Ninth Circuit for Judge Paul Watford and on the district and circuit courts for Judge Jackson.
Congratulations to these four impressive young lawyers on their clerkships with the future Justice Jackson. I’m sure they will have very educational and enjoyable experiences—especially if they enjoy drafting dissents.
For subscribers to Original Jurisdiction, I’ve provided updated SCOTUS clerk hiring lists below, and I hope to have the complete clerk class for October Term 2022 for them shortly. As always, if you have hiring news that I have not yet reported or any corrections to the info appearing below, please reach out by email (email@example.com) or text (917-397-2751). Be sure to include the words “SCOTUS Clerk Hiring” in your email or text message, perhaps as the subject line of your email or the first words of your text, to help me locate these tips in my inbox.
If I don’t get the few missing names for OT 2022 in the next few weeks, I’ll get them from the Court’s Public Information Office in July. So if you have information to share, please don’t be shy, since the entire list will be made public soon anyway—cf. the inevitable-discovery doctrine. Thanks!
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