Congress has the power of the purse. It allocates funds for building courthouses, keeping the lights on, and employing staff. For instance, law clerks are employed under 28 U.S.C. 752 (for district courts) and 28 U.S.C. 712 (for circuit courts). If the judiciary really wants to fix the hiring plan, then judges should request that Congress condition salaries for law clerks upon them being hired in compliance with the judicial hiring plan. In other words, if you don't play by the rules, you don't have law clerks.Good luck with that one...
But wait, isn't that unconstitutional? Nope. The Constitution prevents Congress from lowering the salaries of federal judges, but says nothing about their staff (anyways, such a law could be written to apply only to those hired in the future, not those already employed). And Congress isn't infringing on the judicial power in any way - this law does not effect how judges make use of their clerks, just the timing of how they hire them. And it would leave the actual formation of the plan up to the judiciary.
Federal judges could ask Congress to make the hiring plan mandatory via a proposal from a special judicial working group, or even in Chief Justice Roberts's year end report to Congress. And they should. A new, mandatory plan would be fairer for less-advantaged law students and late-bloomers, more efficient for federal judges, and maybe even better for you.
Meantime, over at his blog, Rumpole asks whether you'd rather be on the Third DCA or on the SDFLA district bench. Or a Florida Supreme Court Justice or on the 11th Circuit. Seems to me that the federal positions are much more sought after and are thought of in the legal community as more prestigious. And speaking of clerks, the feds get the cream of the crop. I imagine that the district court clerks have better resumes than the clerks on the Florida Supreme Court. Is that right?