Following his confirmation as an associate justice on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 became the first Supreme Court justice in history to hire a set of all-female clerks, including Yale Law School graduate Kim Jackson LAW ’17.
Still, with the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s appointment, professors at the Law School are divided on whether they would write recommendation letters for students looking to clerk for Kavanaugh in the future.
Clerkships offer a unique opportunity for young lawyers to assist justices, whether that be by offering suggestions on what cases to hear or by helping them prepare oral arguments. Jackson clerked for Kavanaugh during his tenure on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Recommendation letters from law school professors often play a central role in the selection process for clerkships. But given the contentious nature of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, some have expressed reluctance in writing such letters with Kavanaugh on the receiving end.
Law professor Lea Brilmayer joined 32 other current and former Yale professors in signing onto a New York Times Op-ed entitled “The Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh,” which was published on Oct. 3. Brilmayer says she doubts she would write a letter of recommendation for a student looking to clerk for Kavanaugh, although “it might depend on the circumstances.” She added that her students “are unlikely to be applying to him” and that “with my name on the letters that I signed over the last few weeks, it would not be helpful” for the candidate to have a letter from her.
Still, some professors cite other reasons for not writing such letters. In a piece in the Wednesday edition of the News, prominent constitutional law professor Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 pledged not to write recommendation letters for students applying to clerk for Kavanaugh for the next three years in attempts to skirt accusations against him of “elite cronyism or back-scratching.”
Unlike Amar, James Whitman, professor of comparative and foreign law, said he “would not hesitate to write a recommendation” for students seeking clerkships with Kavanaugh or any other judge.
In a similar vein, Joshua Galperin, a research scholar and lecturer at Yale Law School, said that if a student were to ask him for a recommendation for Kavanaugh, he would, “in principle,” write the letter.
“I would remind the student about the accusations against him, but if the student comes to me with eyes wide open, it is not my place to do more than counsel the student,” Galperin said. “If I trust the student enough to recommend her or him in the first place, I also have to trust the student to make good decisions about where to work.”
Jackson is one of the few black Supreme Court law clerks in this year’s class. In her new position, she will join Shannon Grammel, Megan Lacy and Sara Nommenson — graduates of Stanford Law School, University of Virginia School of Law and Harvard Law School, respectively.
Despite multiple attempts by the News, Jackson could not be reached for comment.
As prior allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh became public, Jackson was one of 18 former female clerks of Kavanaugh to sign a letter in support of the judge. The July letter, addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, described Kavanaugh as a “dedicated mentor” to the 25 women and 23 men who have clerked for him on the court of appeals.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that we would not be the professors, prosecutors, public officials, and, and appellate advocates we are today without his enthusiastic encouragement and unwavering support,” the letter stated.
A majority of current Supreme Court Justices formerly served as law clerks for the Supreme Court. For each term of the Supreme Court, approximately 36 law clerks are hired.
Carly Wanna | firstname.lastname@example.org .