Thursday, May 19, 2022


By Michael Caruso

The federal judiciary has recognized that diversity and inclusion are essential values in our legal system. "Diversity on the bench and among our courtroom and chambers staff is critical to serving a diverse population," said Judge Raymond A. Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia. "It's important that the court is reflective of the community it serves." This is particularly true of those chosen to clerk on the United States Supreme Court.

Judge (soon to be Justice) Ketanji Brown Jackson has put these words into action. Judge Jackson recently hired Kerrel Murray, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, Natalie Salmanowitz, a law clerk at Hogan Lovells, and Michael Qian, an associate at Morrison & Foerster.

Judge Jackson's other hire is Claire Madill. Ms. Madill practices locally—at the Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office! I don't know the exact number of Supreme Court clerks who have been hired  from a public defender's office, but the number has to be exceedingly small. 

In addition to being a public defender, Ms. Madill also is a co-founder of Law Clerks for Workplace Accountability. This group advocates for stronger anti-harassment measures across the federal judiciary. Ms. Madill's hire and work with this group are timely, given the report this week about a disturbing workplace study conducted for the federal trial and appeals courts in D.C.

As the saying goes, "personnel is policy." Choosing a young public defender—one who has a proven commitment to the public interest—is an excellent policy. Praise to Judge Jackson, and congratulations to Ms. Madill!



Anonymous said...

Using "diversity" to select S Ct clerk's is a recipe for disaster. Every justice, regardless of ideology, seeks not diveristy but conformity. Each justice wants clerks that share his/her judicial philosophy, temperament and outlook. And at a bare minimum, a supreme clerk should be part of the academic elite and law review editor material from a top tier school. To select candidate on extraneous characteristics like race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or sexual identity invites conflict and chaos.

Michael Caruso said...


I apologize for my post's lack of clarity. I didn't intend for David's readers to understand that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson "us[ed] 'diversity'" to select her law clerks. I only hoped to convey that the law clerks she selected also happened to reflect her—and the federal judiciary's—commitment to diversity and inclusion. If you research the background and accomplishments of her clerks, you will learn that they meet your criteria: "academic elite and law review editor material from a top tier school."

Kerrel Murray-

Natalie Salmanowitz-

Michael Qian-

Claire Madill-

Notwithstanding, I disagree that every Supreme Court law clerk should meet your narrow qualifications. The history of our legal profession reveals that not every stellar lawyer, law clerk, or judge must be a law review editor from a top-tier school.

I also disagree with your proposition that judges do or should seek "conformity": "clerks that share his/her judicial philosophy, temperament, and outlook." There are many examples of judges who hire clerks regardless of philosophy and judges who are celebrated because they hire "counter-clerks." See https://repository.
As citizens, we should strive not to live in an echo chamber. I believe that holds even more true for judges making critical decisions about people's lives.

I also disagree with your labeling specific characteristics as "extraneous." Those traits are part of what makes us who we are.

Recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion in law clerk hiring will not lead to chaos. Instead, as Judge Raymond Jackson also said: "Each of us are shaped by our own unique life experiences, and those life experiences shape our decision-making. Working with people of different life experiences better shapes our understanding of the unique circumstances facing the many different people that appear before the court."