Blogger and journalist Legal Schnauzer (aka Roger Shuler) is on a tear against U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Michael Putnam and Judge Putnam’s law clerk, David Waters, Jr. Legal Schnauzer has accused Putnam of presiding over his wife’s employment discrimination case despite an existing conflict of interest. According to Legal Schnauzer, at the heart of that conflict is the law clerk, whose dad is a partner in the law firm that represents the defendant employer in Legal Schnauzer’s wife’s lawsuit.
Schnauzer called chambers, apparently to inquire about this potential conflict, and got Waters on the phone. Twice. Both times, Waters hung up on Schnauzer, who recorded their second exchange. Legal Schnauzer has taken aim at Waters, accusing Waters of residing comfortably within the one percent and claiming to target Waters’s “finely manicured face” with a verbal assault over the phone. It’s personal, folks.
‘Tis true that getting a clerkship is only half the battle. Once you get the job, you have to not only meet and exceed the judge’s expectations, but you also have to carefully navigate the law clerk’s invisible, support role and the very public and sometimes very unpopular decisions of your judge. Things like this must make that job all the harder.
What might be the bigger lessons here? (1) Had the law clerk simply gone about his business and, instead of clerking, entered the relative anonymity of law firm associate-dom after law school, he likely would have avoided this attention. I guarantee the clerkship experience is worth it. (2) If clerkships were truly open to a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, the thread of elitism that undergirds Legal Schnauzer’s accusations would not have much traction. (3) Maybe law clerks shouldn’t be permitted to answer the phone in chambers. Many judges and their staff shield the law clerks from public interaction on behalf of chambers. Not just for the good of the law clerk but to save chambers any embarrassment as well.
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