TexJudge Digs T2 Law Clerks

TexJudge Columns, Lawyer 15 Comments

[Ed. Note: The following is a follow-up from “TexJudge,” the former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge who wrote the highly debated pieces “Are Law Schools Screwing Students?” and “Bitter Judge Strikes Again.”]

One of the more rewarding aspects of being an appellate court judge is the opportunity to select law clerks. During my six years on the bench, I selected four. I decided up front to base my selections using nontraditional criteria. I did not want to be like most of the federal appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices who largely limit their selectees to graduates of Ivy League law schools who were law review editors. I did not care whether or not a candidate went to a tier-one school (2 of my choices did; 2 did not).

I did view with favor candidates who, like myself, played sports in college and/or held a job while in college or law school. Such a background, I believe, is evidence of a good work ethic and the willingness to be a team player. It is easy to get good grades if someone is paying your bills and all you have to do is study.

Did I consider grades? Yes, but they were not the deciding factor. Each of my selectees did a good job and each has been successful in their careers, though none of them went to BigLaw. Most important, they were good people who you would want to have as friends. The rigid paper qualifications used by too many judges to select their clerks means a lot of really good people never get a shot, there is less diversity in backgrounds, and the law is poorer as a result.

The comments concerning my bitterness at the lack of Supreme Court justices from the South and from outside the Ivy League were interesting and largely missed the point I was trying to make. I do not want to re-fight the Civil War and did not suggest that Southerners are more qualified than “damnyankees” (only kidding; I went to law school up north, have dated ladies from up north and like Law Firm 10) for high judicial office. My point is that, due to the fact that the national media, the legal punditocracy and the law schools producing Supreme Court justices are all in or near New York City, Southerners are not only essentially excluded from consideration but that they are less likely to be confirmed. Having a law degree from Yale means you are automatically qualified; the presumption of qualification would not be extended to a graduate of LSU, Houston, Alabama or Florida.

The entertainment industry (TV and movies) almost always portrays Southerners as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes and rednecks who can’t speak proper English and have sex with family members. One of the comments suggested that intelligence levels are higher in the north: Counselor, can you produce evidence of this that meets Daubert standards?

I do take serious offense at the comment that equated honorable men like Senator Cornyn (a former Texas Supreme Court Justice) and Cong. Gomert (a former Texas appellate judge) with racist thugs like Bull Connor and the young George Wallace. That would be like my equating liberals like Obama and Pelosi with radical liberals like Bill Ayers, Stalin and Hugo Chavez. Sir, you should be ashamed.

Finally, I would not vote to confirm Elena Kagan. My reasons are her lack of any experience in the private sector, her lack of legal articles and what appears to be strong evidence that she will be a judicial activist.

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  • BL1Y

    I disagree that the entertainment industry always portrays Southerners negatively.  I suspect the judge just has a bit of confirmation bias, paying more attention to the films that portray the South poorly, while not giving equal weight to films that portray it neutrally or positively.  How about Drum Line, Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Blind Side, Steel Magnolias, or The Astronaut Farmer? Plenty of films also portray some Southerners negatively, while also having some who are shown in a positive light, giving a balanced opinion of the South, such as Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, To Kill a Mockingbird, or O Brother Where Art Thou?  As an (almost) native Southerner, I haven’t really felt that the entertainment industry looked down on me.  But, the news industry, and the garden variety damn yankee are a different story, though I don’t think cultural bias is any stronger in the North than the South or any other region.

  • southern litigator

    i’m just glad this site is finally putting something new up. did all the usual writers quit? it’s been a few months since we got any of the (previously) regular articles

  • Worse Yet

    Obama and Pelosi are a *LOT* more like Ayres and Chavez, sharing many more of their views as evinced in their writing and speaking, than everyday conservatives are like the extremists they are constantly associated with in order to cast aspersions and stifle debate about the real issues.  (E.g., witness the characterization of the entire Tea Party as a racist movement based on one or two idiots when it has absolutely nothing to do with race, while at the same time so-called progressives completely ignored and dismissed Obama’s decades long and close relationship with a clearly racist and hateful pastor and church.)

  • Craig

    I like this guy.  I like his writing too.  High marks all around.

  • No bitter special

    I’m also wondering why everyone on this blog quit working.  I have no problem with you quitting.  That’s your business. But just give me an explanation. Please.  I came to this site everyday.  Now, I nostalgically groom it once a week.  WTF?  But this is great stuff.  I’ve been lucky enough to call a few judges my friends and I have to say that the judges I know are amazing people.  I love seeing a judge’s point of view.  Please keep writing and make Mr. Bitter Lawyer keep posting!

  • Prom Queen

    So is this now and not Not that I don’t appreciate the new fresh view, I didn’t think it would be the only view.
    Ollie ollie oxen free

  • Sparky

    Um I realize that Clarence Thomas did go to Yale, but the dude is from BFE, Georgia. Hell English isn’t even his first language, it’s Gullah.

  • Son of Guano

    Hey! You all started again without me!  Where is the obligatory Alma (“I went to the south and some men hit on me but I ignored them, since they only were admiring my body”) posting?  “Mississippi Burning” is the classic take on southern justice as shown in the movies. ‘Inherit the wind” was the same-outsiders come to bring light and justice. I’ve always liked it there:  it seems peaceful to me and I like how court reporters put “ya’all” in the transcript.

  • Evil Lawyer

    Yalies have a lock at the SC for clerkships and one has to wonder why.  Look at the UCLA law professor, Jonatahn Zasloff, (double Yale) who reportedly proposed that a news channel he didn’t like (Fox) should lose its FCC license becuase he dislikes its reporting. Aside from not understanding that Fox is cable, and your own views of Fox, people from Yale evidently pop out of law school with a Hugo Chavez view of the First Amendment. Really impressive.

  • Alma Federer

    I think no self respecting woman lawyer, pretty or not, who was attractive and a tier -1 law graduate would want to clerk for a tier 2 judge.  So there.  I did not even want to clerk, but there were lots of lawyers who wanted me to work for them, but I think that they were not interested in my mind, so I did not fall for their lusty behavior.  I was lucky that I had a good education from a tier 2 school, and had good grades.  I do not think that I would have been able to get the job I have today even if I were in a tier 1 school.  It is that tough out there.  So women, beware of men who offer you the hope of a possible job with strings attached.  You will not be happy and may wind up feeling very sorry you let your guard down.

  • Prom Queen

    Oh what would we woman do without your pearl necklaces of wisdom Alma??

  • Spider webs on Alma

    Alma: don’t you wonder what you missed by not having intimate relationships with all those fellow students, judges, lawyers, and partners along the way?  All the morning showers, late lunches, day-after breakfasts and hand-holding you missed?  (Not to mention being bent over a desk in someone’s office). Sneaking into work in one car and splitting up in the parking lot so you can arrive “separately”?  Getting flowers the next day? Suppressing a smile in the hallway? Appearing in front of a judge you had a fling with years ago?  Do you just count up the experiences you avoided as trophies? Sad. (confirming your low opinion of men, however, I am willing to provide an accellerated make up program…but you have to come to California)

  • unabashed yankee

    Take offense all you want:  nobody “equated” Cornyn will Connor.  Or anything like that.  You create a red herring, inartfully.
    Remember, BJ, you simply asserted that Southerners aren’t dumb enough to put people in office like Spitzer.  I pointed out a list of southern politicians that proves oh-so-indubitably wrong.  All of those southern politicians are not equal.  Connor many times worse than Cornyn.  Put Gohmert (“terrorist babies!”), Vitter, Sanford, etc.  wherever you’d like.  All of them, are, however, orders of magnitude worse than Spitzer.  So much for your theory of “Southern Superiority in Selecting Morally Admirable Politicians.”

  • Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    This is my new favorite writer. As a southerner and also a non-tier 1 grad, I second what his Honor says. If Kagan was from the South, the news media would have attacked Sarah Palin-style and she would have dropped out long ago like what’s her face that Bush nominated from his staff who similarly, had no judicial experience (Paula something? See, I can’t even remember her last name because that’s how irrelevant she was).  Bravo, Judge, and I appreciate someone recognizing that those of us who had to work during law school had a much harder time than our classmates who had nothing else to do but study.

  • tomato growing Texas lawyer

    Excellent, your honor!! It is about time Bitter Lawyer realized that the field is populated with non T1 law students and graduates. I don’t give a damn what BigLaw or Ivy Leagues think of me and my J.D.  I agree that many very good law students are passed over for clerkships because the criteria used that has nothing to do with qualifications.