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Heritage Foundation offers ‘training academy’ for judicial clerks

‘I absolutely, highly recommend the program,’ former attendee says

A conservative think tank will continue its annual “training academy” for judicial clerks this spring.

The Heritage Foundation’s Judicial Clerkship Training Academy will run from March 20-22. Attendees, often law students or recent graduates, will have an opportunity to hear from federal judges, law professors, and former clerks.

The think tank started the program in 2018, and “since that time, 285 exceptionally bright individuals have participated in the course” John Malcolm with the Heritage Foundation told The College Fix via email. “[W]hile most of the attendees subsequently clerked for federal judges, a few have clerked for state Supreme Court justices,” Malcolm said. He is a lawyer by training and a former federal judicial law clerk.

The goal is not to push a certain ideology on the clerks, or “brainwash” them, an accusation Malcolm has heard. The Fix had asked what the think tank would say to criticism that the group is trying to persuade clerks to be favorable to the group’s political agenda.

People are “delusional” and “radically overestimating our powers of persuasion” if they “really think” the group could “brainwash… this group of bright, aspiring lawyers over a two-day period,” Malcolm said.

The two-day training will feature talks on various topics such as “Textualism and Canons of Statutory Construction,” “The Steps to Standout Legal Writing,” and “What I Wish I Knew Before my Clerkship.” Speakers include former law clerks, including one who worked for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Professor John Yoo will give a talk on originalism. The University of California Berkeley professor told The Fix via email he wanted to “challenge the students to think deeply about originalism.”

His talk is aimed at helping those who attend to gain a “sturdy understanding of constitutional interpretation but also with creativity and sensitivity to the history surrounding our Constitution.”

Ilya Shapiro will tentatively talk about the “illiberal takeover of legal education.”

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A former attendee praised the academy.

“I absolutely, highly recommend the program” David Gutierrez, a former attendee of the program, told The Fix via email. He clerked for three federal judges before taking a job at law firm Yetter Coleman in Texas.

“It was an enormously positive and important experience to have as a conservative young lawyer and judicial law clerk,” he told The Fix.

He said, “the academy provided me with a better understanding of my role as a judicial law clerk and helped me gain a deeper understanding of constitutional issues and jurisprudence that was helpful to my work in chambers.”

Perhaps equally important to the material offered during the program is the networking opportunity that the academy offers. “Not only did I get to meet with and learn from esteemed professors and law superstars during my participation in the academy, but I also met and made connections with like-minded individuals are also in the same path as I am and are interested in doing more for the law and our society in our careers.”

This is a networking relationship that benefits both the attendees and the organization itself. Malcolm said one goal of the academy is to “to establish a relationship with these future legal stars as they advance in their careers.”

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IMAGE: Freedomz/Canva

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Anna Wascovich is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, with a B.A. in English, British and American literature concentration.