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Federal Judge Seeks a Third Law Clerk; Applicants Must Be Willing to Work for Free

Posted Nov 26, 2012 9:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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U.S. District Judge William Martinez of Denver isn’t satisfied with two paid law clerks.

He is seeking applicants for a third clerk position, but there’s a catch: They must be willing to work for free. In a story for Salon, University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos notes the unpaid position and calls it “arguably illegal.”

There is an argument supporting the unpaid work, Campos says. Although the Fair Labor Standards Act generally bars employers from requiring free work, the ban doesn’t apply to people who volunteer to work for a public employer. In Campos’ view, the argument “violates both the letter and the spirit of the FLSA. Hiring one person to do a paid job, while at the same time hiring another person through exactly the same hiring process to do exactly the same job, but not paying him or her to do it, is precisely what the statute was designed to prohibit.

“Beyond the legalities, there’s the moral question of whether this is acceptable behavior,” Campos writes. “For high government officials to prey on the desperation of the lost generation in this way is a sorry sight."

The ABA Journal left a phone message for Martinez early this morning; we will update if he responds.

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