Alito's Law Clerks:
The Washington Post has the scoop on Justice Alito's law clerks. Of primary importance here at the VC, Alito made the smart move and hired Sasha. Alito also picked up Ben Horwich, who was clerking with Sasha for SOC.

  For my money, though, the remaining picks are more interesting. Alito selected three of his best former clerks — two of whom went on to clerk at the Supreme Court — to return and clerk for him again. The veteran Alito clerks are Williams & Connolly associate Hannah Smith, who clerked for Alito in '01-'02 before clerking for Justice Thomas in OT03; Sidley Austin litigation partner and former Congressional candidate Jay Jorgensen, who clerked for Alito in '97-'98 before clerking for Chief Justice Rehnquist in OT99; and Adam Ciongoli, who clerked for Alito in '95-'96, was an aide to then-AG John Ashcroft in 2001-03, and most recently has served as General Counsel of Time-Warner Europe.

  With that team of clerks, you can bet Alito is going to hit the ground running.
I thought clerks were suppossed to be much more fresh out of law school... and not general counsels, anyway. Is this normal?
2.15.2006 12:25pm
PAB (mail):
I thought that the Supremes got only four clerks? Did Alito not hire a Judicial Assistant, and instead hire an extra clerk?
2.15.2006 12:31pm
o' connuh j.:
Hannah Smith is SO cute.
2.15.2006 12:45pm
Guest2 (mail):
I had somewhat the same thought as moonfall. Sounds like clerking -- even SCOTUS clerking -- would be a step back for these folks. Maybe they really love Alito?
2.15.2006 12:53pm
Harry Niska (mail):
There's a lot of BYU going on in that chambers.
2.15.2006 12:53pm
DJ (mail):
Hm. Some of these guys took a very public role in promoting the Alito nomination. Is this a pay-off?
2.15.2006 1:01pm
Sean M.:
As UTR explains () Smith will serve until May and then be replaced by Jorgensen.

As for whether this is "pay off" or a "step down," I imagine that each of these individuals has a strong affection for Justice Alito, having worked for him before. When you're called and asked to help him transition into his new role of Supreme Court Justice, I imagine it must be hard to resist the personal connection or the call to service on the highest judicial body in the United States.

In other words, I think they are repaying a man that helped them a lot in life and answering the call to public service.
2.15.2006 1:06pm
jallgor (mail):
Pay-off? Do you realize how much of a pay-cut a Partner at Sidley is taking to go back to clerking? It's hard to say, but it probably reflects a pay-cut of anywhere between 4 and 8 hundred thousand dollars a year. It's not like he needs it for his resume since he already clerked for Rehnquist.
2.15.2006 1:10pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
What happened to his clerks at his old job?
2.15.2006 1:22pm
Been There, Done That:
Yeah, way to reward the current crop of law clerks he had on the third circuit....

Anyway, considering there are only a few months left in this term, will these clerks stick around for the next full term?
2.15.2006 1:32pm
JDH (mail):
I agree with jallgor and Sean M. I graduated from law school with Jay Jorgensen -- he's as smart a lawyer as you'll ever find out there and a good man. Between his prior experience with Alito and his prior SC clerking experience, he's the natural pick. Jay is also good at looking at the long-term. This job will make him more "bones" for his own eventual nomination to the SC. My prediction: If a Republican becomes President in '08, Jorgensen gets nominated to either the DC Circuit or some other high profile appellate court on his way to the top job.

BTW, Hannah Smith's no slouch either. Besides which, Mormons have to make up for that embarassment known as Harry Reid. Go BYU!
2.15.2006 1:33pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I guess when you're new it makes sense to have clerks who both know the territory and whom you can trust.

As far as steps down, couldn't you compare being a SC clerk to something like being chief of staff for an important Senator? The title may just be "clerk," but I'm not sure there are jobs much loftier. Especially in the first term for two brand new Justices who are going to be shaping the Court for a long time in the future...

The Senate is sometimes said to be the most exclusive club in the country, but I bet a lot of legal types would say the Supeme Court better fits that description.
2.15.2006 1:43pm
Been There, Done That:
Legal Washington employs a caste system that renders India's downright egalitarian in comparison.

At the tippy-top of this hierarchy sit the clerks. And by "the clerks" we mean SUPREME COURT law clerks. (Just like "the court" only refers to one court, and a few miles up the road, our friends are either in "the city" or outside of it. You know which city. THE city.)

I pointed to the cruelty of Alito leaving his current batch of clerks behind in New Jersey because in Legal Washington, being a clerk from the mere U.S. Court of Appeals is just, nice. And the Third Circuit is not the sexiest one out there, either. Clerks from the more prestigious DC Circuit or Second Circuit get to lord it over those from, say, the uncool Eighth Circuit.
2.15.2006 2:01pm
Eric Muller (www):
"... hit the ground running."

Exit, stage right!
2.15.2006 2:01pm
MikeC&F (mail):
That's a powerhouse team, fo shizzle. Though we might want to insert conservative before powerhouse.
2.15.2006 2:02pm
Pete Freans (mail):
I'm I correct in saying that Ms. Smith and her husband both clerked for Justice Alito when he was on the Third Circuit? If this is true, did they clerk for him at the same time?
2.15.2006 2:09pm
Sethco (mail):
Is it ethical for Ciongoli to clerk for Alito on cases that he may have worked on while at the DoJ? Would he have to recuse himself? I'm not an attorney, so I don't know how that works, but it seems like a questionable practice to me.
2.15.2006 2:12pm
A Blogger:
Been There, Done that --

You need to stop reading so much "Underneath Their Robes"
2.15.2006 2:36pm
Been There, Done That:
I looked at underneath once or twice. I'm hardly a regular reader.

However, I did work at one of these huge firms, and it was really pathetic how really bright people, who went to excellent schools and were very capable, were treated like the janitorial service because they'd "only" clerked at the circuit court level and not at THE court.
2.15.2006 2:54pm
srp (mail):
I, for one, look forward to seeing Sasha smuggle some Esperanto into Alito's opinions.
2.15.2006 7:23pm
CA (mail):
Pete Freans,

The answer to both of your questions is Yes. John, Hannah's husband, is as magnanimous as they come, so I bet he doesn't even feel passed over (or only maybe just a little).
2.15.2006 7:53pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):

However, I did work at one of these huge firms, and it was really pathetic how really bright people, who went to excellent schools and were very capable, were treated like the janitorial service because they'd "only" clerked at the circuit court level and not at THE court.

I find this worrying. Is it really that necessary to clerk at the supreme court to be considered a good lawyer? This doesnt bode well for the bottom 99.99 percent of lawyers, unless there is massive turnover in the SCOTUS clerk system.

I am merely a humble pre-1L (accepted but not matriculated) so these things are still largely a mystery to me.
2.16.2006 2:50am
Pete Freans (mail):

Thanks. What an interesting situation. I can just imagine the senario: "Did you Shepardize that case?!" "Yes dear....."
2.16.2006 7:54am
Sasha (mail):
srp: Ne detenu vian spiron.
2.16.2006 9:21am
Guest2 (mail):
Beerslurpy wrote: "I find this worrying. Is it really that necessary to clerk at the supreme court to be considered a good lawyer?"

It depends on who's doing the considering. Lawyers love to rank things, especially other lawyers. People who went to top-10 law schools look down on those who didn't; people who went to Harvard or Yale look down on those who went to the other top 10s; people who went to Yale look down on those who went to Harvard; people who made law review at Yale look down on those Yalies who didn't; etc. etc. etc. Same goes for clerkships, cities, law firms, practice areas, clients.

Ultimately, to be a happy lawyer, you will need to learn how to determine for yourself whether you're good.
2.16.2006 9:52am
Another Guest:
I think Been There Done That is greatly exaggerating, Beerslurpy.

Most incoming lawyers at the large majority of top law firms have not clerked beforehand. Those that do can expect to get signing bonuses of at least $25,000 (and often a lot more) and start working at the level of a second-year associate. If you're treated like crap even after clerking for a federal appellate court, it's because your firm treats all of its young associates like crap.

I also see no problem with Alito not bringing his clerks from the Third Circuit with him. Most Supreme Court clerks had previously clerked for at least a full year for a federal appellate court, and many also have subsequent litigation experience. While I'm sure the persons who clerked for Alito this year are very smart and talented, they've also had less than a year of experience clerking at the appellate level. Alito is joining the Supreme Court mid-term; he's going to need all the help he can get adjusting. Relying on highly-experienced attorneys with whom he has a past working relationship makes complete sense.
2.16.2006 2:21pm