[Ed. Note: The following is a follow-up from “TexJudge,” the former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge who wrote the highly debated pieces “Are Law Schools Screwing Students?” and “Bitter Judge Strikes Again.”]
One of the more rewarding aspects of being an appellate court judge is the opportunity to select law clerks. During my six years on the bench, I selected four. I decided up front to base my selections using nontraditional criteria. I did not want to be like most of the federal appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices who largely limit their selectees to graduates of Ivy League law schools who were law review editors. I did not care whether or not a candidate went to a tier-one school (2 of my choices did; 2 did not).
I did view with favor candidates who, like myself, played sports in college and/or held a job while in college or law school. Such a background, I believe, is evidence of a good work ethic and the willingness to be a team player. It is easy to get good grades if someone is paying your bills and all you have to do is study.
Did I consider grades? Yes, but they were not the deciding factor. Each of my selectees did a good job and each has been successful in their careers, though none of them went to BigLaw. Most important, they were good people who you would want to have as friends. The rigid paper qualifications used by too many judges to select their clerks means a lot of really good people never get a shot, there is less diversity in backgrounds, and the law is poorer as a result.
The comments concerning my bitterness at the lack of Supreme Court justices from the South and from outside the Ivy League were interesting and largely missed the point I was trying to make. I do not want to re-fight the Civil War and did not suggest that Southerners are more qualified than “damnyankees” (only kidding; I went to law school up north, have dated ladies from up north and like Law Firm 10) for high judicial office. My point is that, due to the fact that the national media, the legal punditocracy and the law schools producing Supreme Court justices are all in or near New York City, Southerners are not only essentially excluded from consideration but that they are less likely to be confirmed. Having a law degree from Yale means you are automatically qualified; the presumption of qualification would not be extended to a graduate of LSU, Houston, Alabama or Florida.
The entertainment industry (TV and movies) almost always portrays Southerners as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes and rednecks who can’t speak proper English and have sex with family members. One of the comments suggested that intelligence levels are higher in the north: Counselor, can you produce evidence of this that meets Daubert standards?
I do take serious offense at the comment that equated honorable men like Senator Cornyn (a former Texas Supreme Court Justice) and Cong. Gomert (a former Texas appellate judge) with racist thugs like Bull Connor and the young George Wallace. That would be like my equating liberals like Obama and Pelosi with radical liberals like Bill Ayers, Stalin and Hugo Chavez. Sir, you should be ashamed.
Finally, I would not vote to confirm Elena Kagan. My reasons are her lack of any experience in the private sector, her lack of legal articles and what appears to be strong evidence that she will be a judicial activist.