Women’s Choice in Reproductive Rights Decisions Gutted by USSCT

I am not pro-abortion, and I am not anti-abortion. I stand in favor of a woman’s right to choose. I respect the opinions of others, and creating a forum for politically-charged issues is not the mission of the Best Friends at the Bar project. I have not wanted to pit my followers against each other in ways that would rend the fabric of support that I have created for women lawyers for almost 20 years.

I also was content to believe that the guarantees established by the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, and later upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, would survive even the greatest judicial scrutiny. I was content to believe that we never would return to a time when women were forced to resort to dark alleys and butcher procedures in the large cities of America and to dangerous procedures at their own hands throughout the land. I was content to believe the now Supreme Court justices, who appeared to buttress the sanctity of the precedent of Roe during Congressional confirmation hearings.

However, my confidence in the Rule of Law and in the quality of the judiciary was misplaced. The right to choose an abortion, as established in Roe v. Wade and based upon the existence of fundamental rights of privacy in the US Constitution, was dealt a devastating blow yesterday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe and left millions of women in America defenseless by putting the abortion decision in the hands of elected officials in state legislatures.

As a result of yesterday’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, women in their reproductive years, which includes many young women lawyers I have advocated for over these many years, now must worry about where they live and whether they reside in a state that has already curtailed or intends to curtail the right to choose. Now so many mothers have to worry about their daughters and their granddaughters and what their future dilemmas and choices may be. Now women, who would choose abortion but cannot afford to travel to a jurisdiction where that right is protected, will be forced to make another decision, and now we must be wary of the vulnerability of other privacy rights, including the right to love and marry who one chooses.

These subjects were addressed yesterday by the chair of a Big Law firm, and her sentiments echo my own. Here is part of what Julie Jones of Ropes & Gray wrote to her law firm colleagues, as reported on Above the Law:

“This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, ending 50 years of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights.  The Dobbs ruling has created extraordinarily strong feelings in many of us.  As a lawyer, I reflect on Supreme Court jurisprudence, the principle of stare decisis and the future of privacy rights and other civil right protections in the United States.   As a woman, I have a profound feeling of vulnerability caused by the elimination of a long-standing right of women – a right that affects their bodies and their agency.  As a person with privilege, I recognize and worry about the decision’s disproportionate impact on women with limited resources.   As an American, I fear the divisive nature of this topic will further fracture an already angry and divided citizenry.”

Now we have so much more to worry about.

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Predictions about a Possible Recession and What it Will Mean for Young Lawyers

The talk these days is all about recession. This year, the year after, whenever …… the possibility has everybody concerned. The Feds are trying to get the economy under control to fend off that result, but that is not giving comfort to a lot of people.

Lawyers are no different than the rest of the people. Lawyers also are concerned, especially lawyers at the bottom of the pyramid, who lack a lot of experience and might be considered expendable by management. And there is little comfort in the experience of the last recession when law firms laid off so many newbie lawyers during 2007, 2008 and 2009. Shedding capacity in this way also affected those in law school at the time, who were about to become part of the excess. I recall counseling law students in 2008 and 2009 to get a side job and take an extra year in law school to avoid graduation during a dreadful job market. It turned out to be good advice.

But coming up with good advice as we face another possible or even probable recession of some magnitude is not easy. I have had my eye out for indicators of how it will play out for young lawyers, and finally I have found something to pass on to you from a recent Above The Law article. That article draws on comments made to the American Lawyer by a Big Law business development officer, who drew on the experience of the past recession in predicting behaviors by Big Law in the immediate future.

His prediction is that law firms, especially large law firms, will be very reluctant to repeat lay-off policies from the 2008 recession because those policies left them with leveraging shortages and a “bubble in their associate ranks that was hard to close.” Rather, he predicts that natural attrition will address enough of the reduced demand to avoid a staffing “catastophe in the future.”

But it was the rest of his prediction that really got my attention. He also claims that some firms are considering opening up equity partnerships to attract and retain talent during these uncertain times.

Now, that is news worthy.

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Closing the Gender Pay Equity Gap

Most of you know that there is a gender pay gap for lawyers in our country. Simply speaking, women lawyers fall significantly behind men in terms of compensation, especially in large law firms. In Big Law, the gender pay gap widens as lawyers climb the experience ladder, and women lawyers continue to struggle to get full credit for their work or suffer setbacks for having children. These issues, and what to do about them, were explored recently in a Bloomberg Law article, and the information, especially the historical data, are worthy of your attention.

And that is true whether you are a male or female lawyer. Women have a vested interest that is obvious. Men have an interest because losing the talent of women due to issues of inequity will impact them as well.

Although men and women start off on equal footing in terms of compensation, the gap begins to widen at the partner level where women make up only 22% of equity partners and earn only 78% of what men make. These figures are supported by surveys conducted by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the figures have not changed much in the last decade.

The challenge is what to do about it. As pointed out in the article, people who make compensation and related decisions at firms think they are being fair, and most of them want to be fair. But the statistics tell a different story.

All kinds of unfair assumptions are made about women lawyers. It is assumed that they will have children, and it is assumed that they will no longer want to work once they have children. And it is assumed that if they have children and keep on working, they will not be as serious about their professional lives. As a result, those women start to get fewer opportunities in terms of cases and face time with important clients.

Annual reviews, which determine both salary and bonuses, are another problem. Those reviews start with self evaluations, something women historically do not excel at. Women are typically not comfortable bragging about their accomplishments or misrepresenting their expertise, and that puts them at a disadvantage in the review process. If firms are going to value big personalities as much as work product, many women will not be able to compete.

But it is origination credit where the rubber hits the road. It is the biggest factor in determining compensation and promotions at most law firms, and it derives from being given the opportunities that will lead to having responsibilities for clients. If the work is for institutional clients, and a senior lawyer holds the origination, origination credit for both junior male and female lawyers can be a long time in coming. And significant origination credit is how a lawyer gets through the gate to equity partner, and that is where the money is.

Today, however, there is some sign of change in the air. That change is coming from clients, who want assurances of pay equity among their lawyers. And the number one new question from clients has to do with origination credit. That is progress, but if women are not among those at the firm making decisions on compensation and promotion matters, real change may be elusive. And because women lag far behind men in terms of firm management and leadership positions, there is arguably inherent bias on compensation committees.

It is clear that significant and lasting change needs to come from within. Law firms need to recognize that their processes have not been transparent to date, and they need to do something about it. Lack of transparency and taboos about discussing compensation render junior lawyers powerless.

Specifically, as the article discusses, law firms need to start auditing compensation decisions and looking for outliers. Formulas need to include more than just billable hours and receivables, and variables in billing rates need to become part of the evaluation. And law firms must be on the lookout for biases like those that favor “big law firm personalities” that hold women back. Not just women as a group, but individual women.

What is fair is fair. But it is complicated.

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The Elusiveness of Work-Life Balance for Young Lawyers

I have written for years about the elusiveness of work-life balance, including an entire book about it for women lawyers.  That book was published in 2012, and here is a very recent article echoing many of those same themes. The search for balance is a never-ending process.

Work-life balance is not accomplished in the knowing. It is accomplished in the execution.  Only YOU can define a healthy work-life balance for YOU.

Sometimes your emphasis has to be more on the personal side, and sometime your balance needs to be more on the professional side.  You don’t measure it on a day-to-day basis. You measure it over time.  That is the only balance that is real.

I often hear young women lawyers complain that the balance is not being “assured” for them by the profession.  They get angry when it is suggested that they have to keep their eyes on both sides of the scale.  They become offended when they hear about the pitfalls of the profession for lawyer/mothers in particular, and they feel slighted.  

It does not matter how many times they are told, “You are smart. You are capable of multi-tasking. You’ve got this.”  The emphasis continues to be on the perceived slight. What they miss is that the advice is being shared to make them stronger and more successful.  

They are not being told to ignore their family responsibilities or other important aspects of their personal lives. But they also are not being told that life is fair every day of the week or every week of the month or every month of the year either.  The law is a tough and demanding profession, and it includes sacrifices that do not always feel good.

Some days will feel like hell, in fact, but other days will be so exhilarating that a lawyer/mom actually can feel like she does have it all — a combination of the children who light up her life and a profession that both challenges and compensates her in a way that allows for a better life for her children.

Do not resent those who are trying to help you. Focus on the work-life management that is being suggested in this recent article and understand that you have the power to bring about a satisfactory solution for YOU. The article rightly suggests that “We deserve more than balance. We deserve to be honest and respectful of ourselves.” 

Honesty and respect for yourself will come from within yourself. It is the first step. Identifying your priorities and your goals are key. Those will dictate the balance that works for you.

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Young Lawyers Need to Embrace Mistakes as Opportunities

The great jazz legend Miles Davis once said, “If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that determines if it’s good or bad.” Like all great jazz musicians, Davis was a master of improvisation. As such, he saw musical mistakes as opportunities — a philosophy he carried into the rest of his life.

Miles Davis’ words provide a valuable lesson. It’s how we react to so-called mistakes that determine whether the ultimate outcome will be negative or positive. As the great jazz pianist Herbie Hancock said, “Miles was able to turn something that was wrong into something that was right.” 

I play the piano, but I never took music theory seriously. I wish I had because it would make a recovery like Davis envisioned so much easier when I hit the wrong keys and start down the road to dissonance. Music theory teaches you how chords and notes relate to one another and how taking that next step from mistake to recovery is possible and creative.

You don’t have to be a musician to understand this. It is a theme that presents itself in so many different settings throughout our lives. Not dwelling on past mistakes and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by those mistakes is useful in all of those life experiences, including the practice of law.

Ask any seasoned lawyer and he or she will tell you that it was the mistakes that taught them the most. They learned to rebound and never forgot how that mistake was made and to avoid making it again. They grew as practitioners.

I hope that you will have those same opportunities and that you will embrace them. It will accelerate your success and your tolerance for the mistakes of others. It will make you a better lawyer and a better mentor. It will make you a better leader and a better person.

There is simply nothing to lose and so much to gain.

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Women Lawyers Making Strides at Large US Companies

A recent report demonstrates that almost half of the lawyers at top US Companies today are women.  New data released by executive search and leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates shows that nearly half of the top lawyers appointed at the 500 biggest companies in the U.S. in 2021 were female, a sign of some diversity progress across large corporate legal departments.

These figures for corporate diversity outperform those for most law firms, which have historically fallen short in terms of promoting and retaining women and minorities. There is still a lot of work to be done in the private sector to arrive at gender equity.

Although the advances for women lawyers in the corporate world are encouraging, women lawyers should not have to leave private practice to experience equity for retention and advancement. Diversity, equity and inclusion needs to be at the top of “to do” lists at law firms as well. It will take commitment, creativity and flexibility to bridge the gap. And it needs to come sooner rather than later.

For more on the advances for women lawyers in the corporate world, see this article.

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How are Women Lawyers Advancing?

Just when I start thinking that progress is being made in the advancement of women lawyers, I get hit with new information that sets me back on my heels. I have been advocating for women lawyers for more than 40 years and most significantly for over 15 of those years as the founder of the Best Friends at the Bar project. It has been my great pleasure to promote women lawyers, but it also has been frustrating. Knowing that women lawyers are every bit as competent as male lawyers, and then reading survey information demonstrating disparities in the advancements of these two groups, adds significantly to that frustration.

I always want to be certain that I trust the sources of the information that is being reported. The most recent information comes from a report from the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), a group which I have collaborated with in the past, and is summarized in an article by Vivia Chen in Bloomberg Law, a journalist who I admire for her thorough research, objectivity and honesty. So, I have confidence in the information reported.

The NAWL report is based on analyses of responses from 75 firms in the AmLaw 200. The bottom line, as summarized in Bloomberg Law, is that “women rarely break into the top 10 club of the most highly compensated members of the firm [and] women represent only 22% of equity partners.” We know that the equity partner figure has been hovering near that percentage for almost a decade, so that is not very encouraging.

The most shocking figure reported by NAWL is that, although the law firms surveyed are aware of these issues and are addressing them in pretty “sophisticated” ways — like removing gender biases in compensation and performance reviews — the advancement numbers have not budged much. Frustrating, for sure.

Read more about the NAWL report and the suggestions for firms to help hasten the advancement of women lawyers. Surely there remain reasons to be hopeful, but, basically, I see this as a bummer moment. Can’t help it.

Click here for the Bloomberg Law article.

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Important Issues to Ponder about the Leak at the USSCT

It is not often that I forward an article of this length, but this is worth the exception. It is written by David Lat, founder of Above The Law and current owner of his independent project, Original Jurisdiction, where the article was published. It theorizes about the recent USSCT leak of a draft opinion, which has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, and it also addresses the potential harm in taking away a right that women in America have depended on for the last 50 years.

But it is not all about women. It is also about the men who love them and support them and depend on their contributions to households, which include the needs of other children and complicated economic formulas leveraged on the financial contributions of two working parents.

REMEMBER as you read below, that Lat’s fictitious OP ED at the end is just that — FICTION.  But it offers a lot of food for thought on the leak itself and the risks for millions of Americans of the analysis in the draft opinion becoming the opinion of the Court.

Save it for the weekend!  It will take some time. Here it is — from David Lat:

Like every legal commentator in America, I have theories about the identity of the individual who leaked the initial draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the landmark abortion case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. My usual caveat applies: this is merely speculation, based on publicly known information, and you should take it with a veritable shaker of salt.

For starters, I’m fairly sure the leaker is a law clerk.¹ I don’t believe the leak came from a justice. As I wrote last week, all nine justices have too much respect for the Court as an institution—and too strong an interest in maintaining the confidentiality of its deliberations—to engage in such a massive leak.

I also doubt the leak came from a non-clerk staffer, such as an administrative assistant or chambers aide, or someone who doesn’t work at the Court but had access to the opinion, such as the spouse or roommate of a clerk. Recall that in addition to the opinion itself, Politico has received substantive leaks about the deliberative process in Dobbs. When they posted the draft opinion, Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward also wrote this:

A person familiar with the court’s deliberations said that four of the other Republican-appointed justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—had voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December, and that line-up remains unchanged as of this week.

“A person familiar with the court’s deliberations” who also knew that the line-up of justices in Dobbs “remains unchanged” is unlikely to be someone serving in a strictly administrative capacity at the Court.²

Then yesterday, in an article by three reporters—Gerstein, Ward, and Ryan Lizza, Politico’s chief Washington correspondent—Politico shared more inside information:

Justice Samuel Alito’s sweeping and blunt draft majority opinion from February overturning Roe remains the court’s only circulated draft in the pending Mississippi abortion case, Politico has learned, and none of the conservative justices who initially sided with Alito have to date switched their votes. No dissenting draft opinions have circulated from any justice, including the three liberals. 

Again, I doubt a non-clerk staffer or household member of a justice or clerk would have access to all this real-time information, even if they somehow got their hands on Justice Alito’s draft opinion from February.

Politico is a respected publication, Gerstein and Ward are respected reporters, and they would not put their reputations on the line by publishing a draft opinion whose authenticity they couldn’t verify with a high degree of certainty. As Politico’s two top editors, Matthew Kaminski and Dafna Linzer, told their newsroom shortly after publishing the draft, they confirmed its authenticity through “an extensive review process”—which surely included someone involved in a substantive way with Dobbs.

An argument you often hear in response to suggestions that the leaker is a clerk is that clerks have too much to lose from leaking. As someone who closely covers the world of Supreme Court clerks, I’m well aware of the benefits of a SCOTUS clerkship, which include everything from $400,000+ signing bonuses from law firms to dramatically enhanced career opportunities.

This factor leads me to my second point: in addition to being a clerk, the leaker comes from the left side of the Court. Why? For starters, because someone on the left is less likely to suffer adverse career consequences for leaking than someone on the right.

As has been widely noted, the right mainly raged about the leak, while the left mainly raged about the likely overruling of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Some on the left even celebrated the leaker—such as Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, one of the left’s leading organizations when it comes to the courts:

Or Ian Millhiser, senior correspondent at Vox:

Or Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, who told NPR, “It’s a very good thing that [the draft] got out. It was important to be out.”

So here’s my bold prediction: the leaker will eventually come forward, take responsibility for their actions, and even defend them—maybe in a high-profile venue, like a guest essay for the New York Times.

Inspired by Ninth Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke’s mock en-banc opinion reversing his own panel opinion, I have written a mock Times op-ed from the perspective of the Dobbs leaker. Please note—especially those of you who tend to skim or read too quickly—the following disclaimers and disclosures:

  • I am NOT the Dobbs leaker.
  • This is NOT a real essay by the leaker.
  • I have NOT been in touch with the leaker (to my knowledge).
  • I do NOT know who the leaker actually is.

What follows is merely what I imagine such a person might write, based on arguments already circulating in public discourse. It’s a generally serious effort to inhabit the mindset of the SCOTUS leaker, albeit with a few over-the-top or exaggerated flourishes, and it’s basically my explanation for why someone from the left would have wanted to leak the Dobbs opinion.

To repeat, this is a fictitious essay, and it does not represent my own views about the underlying issues in Dobbs. If it makes you angry, you’re probably not angry at me; instead, it probably means that I have written successfully from a perspective very different from my own—a healthy intellectual exercise that we should all try on occasion. I look forward to your thoughts.

I’m the SCOTUS Leaker—And No, I’m Not Sorry

I am the Supreme Court law clerk who leaked Justice Alito’s initial draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In Dobbs, which the Court will likely hand down next month, five unelected justices will strip tens of millions of pregnant or potentially pregnant people of the right to safe, legal reproductive healthcare. People throughout this country have enjoyed this right, despite (often successful) efforts of Republicans to take it away or frustrate its exercise, for almost fifty years.

Before explaining why I did what I did, I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: I bear sole responsibility for my actions. The fault does not lie with Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, the Politico reporters to whom I leaked the draft. I went to them of my own free will, and they did not pressure me, pay me, or do anything else to induce me to leak the opinion. As for why I went to them rather than other reporters, I had a preexisting relationship with one of them, and I liked Politico as an outlet because it’s established enough to be credible but not strongly associated with either the right or the left. I did not want the outlet to distract from the story, and Politico was the perfect tabula rasa.

Nor does the fault lie with my boss. I did not tell my justice about my conduct in advance—in fact, the justice is learning about my actions the same way all of you are, by reading this op-ed—and the justice neither encouraged nor endorsed my actions. To the contrary, I believe the justice will now condemn my conduct. But with all due respect to the justice—whom I admire greatly, and whose friendship and mentorship I will be sad to lose—I know what I did was right.

To the extent that my revelation creates difficulties for my justice, with some blaming the justice for hiring me, I apologize. But I believe it is morally wrong to focus on the reputation of a justice or the Court when millions of people are about to stripped of an essential right. In fact, it is not only wrong—it is obscene.

So why did I leak the Dobbs draft? Here are my reasons.

First, I did it to warn both elected officials and pregnant and potentially pregnant people about what the Court is about to do. It’s about to take away a cherished right to critical healthcare that has been protected by the Constitution for half a century. After Dobbs officially comes down, some 36 million people in 26 states will lose access to abortion care practically overnight, thanks to a toxic combination of pre-Roe abortion bans and newly passed “trigger laws.”

But because I have sounded the alarm, legislators and executives are focusing now—not in June, but right now—on protecting abortion rights. At the state level, legislatures and governors in blue states are reinforcing reproductive healthcare rights, not just for their own residents but for people fleeing abortion bans in their home states. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing legislation to protect access to abortion care—and even if those efforts are unlikely to go anywhere because of Republican intransigence (and the loathsome Sen. Joe Manchin), they reflect an increased and earlier focus on this critical issue. Leaders are taking action today—because of what I did.

And it’s not just government officials. My leaking of the Dobbs draft has served as a warning to pregnant and potentially pregnant people that a crucial right they rely upon could vanish in a few weeks in their states. This is allowing them to plan ahead—by moving to better states, saving up for out-of-state travel to get an abortion if they can’t move, or switching to other forms of contraception. This early action, by both elected officials and individuals, will help thousands if not millions of people better cope with the disaster to come.

Second, with the midterm elections just a few months away, I took action to remind the American people of what’s at stake—and to spur them to political action and activism. Elections have consequences—and with Roe and Casey about to get overruled, we are now witnessing the catastrophic consequences of electing Donald Trump, who made three illegitimate appointments to the Court. By giving people advance notice of the tragedy about to transpire, I hoped to inspire them to action.

If you’re horrified by the prospect of almost 40 million people losing access to reproductive healthcare in less than two months, don’t (just) complain on Twitter—do something. Donate to candidates who will protect a pregnant person’s right to control their own body. Register voters who will support these candidates. Get involved with a political campaign. It’s not too late—which is why I acted when I did. As noted by Politico, my disclosure of the Dobbs draft “instantly jolted Democrats from a bout of political malaise Monday night—and many hope it could change the tide of the midterm elections.”

Third, I wanted to expose the Supreme Court as the intellectually and morally bankrupt institution that it is—and seeing the initial Alito draft, shockingly retrograde and shoddily crafted, does more than I ever could toward this end. To my critics who have complained that my leak undermined and delegitimized the Court, I say to you: that’s a feature, not a bug.

The initial draft opinion in a controversial case like Dobbs is usually more ideologically extreme and weaker in its analysis than the final product. An opinion gets both more moderate and analytically stronger as other justices make suggestions to the author—sometimes “suggestions” that the author must adopt to secure their colleague’s vote.

The Alito draft is an excellent example. It’s ideologically extreme—aimed not at persuading, but at “owning the libs”—and it’s a train wreck of an opinion (for reasons I can’t comprehensively list here, but see generally Twitter). I want the nation to see this draft, not the final opinion—which, while surely still terrible, won’t be as bad. Look at Alito’s work, my fellow citizens (and undocumented immigrants), and despair.

Then get angry—really angry. Angry enough to donate to your local Democratic political candidate. Angry enough to volunteer for your local pro-choice organization. Angry enough to protest outside a justice’s house. To those of you who object to protesting at judicial residences, I’ll quote the most popular comment on the Washington Post’s handwringing editorial: “We’ll stay away from their houses when they stay away from our uteruses.”

Fourth… why not? Ever since the Dobbs argument in December, which made clear that the justices were leaning in favor of overruling Roe, followed by the justices’ conference, which confirmed this to those of us at the Court, I’ve been in a state of despair. Part of my decision to leak the Dobbs draft was, to be honest, a scream into the void. I realized my act could have unpredictable consequences—but before the leak, what was predictable was soul-crushing. I didn’t know if the leak will make anything better—but it can’t make things any worse.

All this should make abundantly clear that the leak was not about me—it was about the good of this nation. But I’ll close with some thoughts about my own fate.

First, I did consider whether I might be criminally prosecuted. While an aggressive and unjust prosecutor could come up with theories for prosecuting me, I concluded after careful legal analysis—which I’m pretty good at, as a SCOTUS clerk—that a successful prosecution would be very unlikely. More importantly, the risk of such a prosecution was more than outweighed by all the good I could do.

Second, allow me to address the commentators who have so kindly worried on my behalf about how I just torpedoed my once-promising legal career. I find such thinking offensive. I’m insulted by the suggestion that I’m focused on career ambitions at a time when millions of people, including some of the most marginalized people in society, are about to lose access to vital healthcare. A crisis looms for 40 million people—and you think I’m fretting over losing a $400,000+ signing bonus?

Please—did you seriously think I would ever work for Biglaw? Understand this: today’s progressive young lawyers are different from our forebears (many of whom were more liberal than progressive). Our predecessors viewed working for Biglaw for a limited period of time as acceptable; we do not. We reject the mealy-mouthed view that, to paraphrase Trump, there are “very fine people” who work in Biglaw, vote Republican, or belong to the Federalist Society. 

No decent progressive—or human being—can work, for a summer or for a minute, for law firms that defend fossil-fuel companies and opioid manufacturers. The fact that these firms give people off on Juneteenth does not excuse their fundamental evilness—just as being nice to their dogs doesn’t make Republicans less evil, or giving out free SunChips doesn’t make FedSoc members less evil. If you are working on the side of injustice—or remaining silent in the face of injustice, which is not a neutral stance—I really don’t care how much pro-bono work you do, how you brake for small animals, or how “nice” you are to store clerks. You are evil, full stop.

Third, while I have no fear of being banned from Biglaw, I would be more upset if I get disbarred. But if that’s the price I must pay for doing all the good I’ve described, I’ll pay it. When you work at the Supreme Court, it’s easy to think that the legal world is the center of the universe. But there are other ways to bring about major social change besides practicing law—and many of them are more effective and faster-acting than the law, which is precedent-based, plodding, and painfully incrementalist.

I managed to become a SCOTUS clerk because I’m smart, hardworking, and committed. I will always have options. If exiled from the practice of law, I’ll go into activism or advocacy. I’ll become a political operative or a community organizer. I’ll run for office. I’ll become a pundit or public intellectual. I’ll get a faculty position at my alma mater, Yale Law School.

It’s true I’ll never be a judge or justice, one of my career goals back when I was a naive law student. But as a clerk, I’ve seen the judiciary from the inside and at the highest levels, and the scales have fallen from my eyes.

The rot goes far deeper than Republican justices voting for Republican outcomes (yes, Justice Alito, I’m looking at you). Rather, in the United States in the year 2022, the basic enterprise of judging—of interpreting and enforcing laws that are the product of a fundamentally unjust power structure, one that reifies and reinforces inequality of every sort, at every turn—is inherently corrupt. There is no “good” way to be a judge in a “justice” system that does what it does to BIPOCs, womxn, and LGBTQQIAAP people. I no longer want to become a judge because, to paraphrase Justice Harry Blackmun, I no longer want to tinker with the machinery of injustice.

So no, I’m not worried about myself and my career; I’ll be fine. I’m worried about the tens of millions of people who are about to lose fundamental rights, thanks to a Supreme Court with at least four members who shouldn’t even be there.

Last month, I attended my last Supreme Court oral argument as a clerk—and maybe my last one ever, since I will be persona non grata at 1 First Street upon publication of this essay (which I hereby ask my justice to treat as my resignation letter). When the marshal ended the opening cry by saying “God save the United States and this Honorable Court,” I winced.

“This Honorable Court” is a dishonorable court. And nothing would make me happier than to watch it burn, baby, burn.1

I refer to “the leaker,” singular, because I think Politico has just one source. I acknowledge the possibility that Politico is getting leaks from multiple sources—e.g., it got the draft opinion from one source, and information about deliberations from a second source—but I find it unlikely.

One reason the leak was so shocking is that leaks, and certainly leaks of this magnitude, have rarely happened at the Court in the past. As anyone who has followed the Court for years can tell you, SCOTUS leakers are rare—and even more rare are leakers who share full draft opinions. So I adhere to the single-leaker theory, at least for Politico. (As I noted over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page is also getting leaks, although much smaller in nature, and I think the WSJ’s leaker comes from the right.)2

I also agree with Dan McLaughlin and Sarah Isgur that, in general, long-tenured secretaries and chambers aides have stronger loyalties to the Court and to their justices than transient law clerks. These career civil servants also tend to have more moderate political views than clerks—and as discussed below, I believe the leaker had strong political motivations.

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