Judges Object to Proposed Clerk Crackdown

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Federal judges would be limited to just one career law clerk under a proposal made in a confidential report circulating among the judiciary.

Federal judges who value the experience of career clerks are “hopping mad” over the proposal, the National Law Journal reports. Some are disputing the projected cost savings of $223 million to $280 million over the next decade.

Currently there are 1,514 career law clerks, almost double the number a decade ago. During that time, the cost of clerk salaries rose from $55 million to $159 million. Average pay for career law clerks is now $105,000 a year, but only $71,000 for term clerks, who are hired out of law school and work a year or two before moving on.

Under current guidelines, federal appeals judges can have five staff members in any combination of secretaries, term law clerks and career clerks. District judges are allowed three staffers.

The report was written by U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr., chair of the Committee on Judicial Resources of the U.S. Judicial Conference. The document will be forwarded to the conference and released Sept. 18.

Judge Consuelo “Connie” Callahan of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sent a letter with signatures of 22 other judges who disagree with the plan to Furgeson’s committee.

“This would interfere with judges’ ability to produce the best opinions,” she said of the proposal. “There is a big difference between hiring people just out of law school and those with a lot of experience,” she told the NLJ.

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