Friday, October 12, 2018

Yale Law professors divided on Kavanaugh clerkships

The Yale Daily News reports:
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.”
Some law professors at Yale want to limit the opportunities of their students for political reasons. Go figure.