On February 23-25, 2023, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law) in Washington, D.C., hosted 35 rising law clerks from 25 different universities across the country who will be serving in the chambers of Federal Circuit Courts, Federal District Courts, and State Appellate Courts in the upcoming year. The conference was coordinated by Professor A.G. Harmon, Associate Dean of Bench and Bar Programs.
The three-day, in-person conference provided the conferees the opportunity to learn the particulars of judicial opinion writing—a unique conference focus undertaken by the Law School to serve both the bench and bar by training law students in this important skill. On the evening of February 23, attendees were welcomed to Catholic Law for the opening reception and dinner. Hosted in the Louise H. Keelty and James Keelty, Jr. Atrium, conferees were welcomed to the conference by Catholic Law faculty and staff. Paul D. Clement, partner, Clement & Murphy PLLC, and former Solicitor General of the United States, delivered the keynote address at the reception. The opening reception and dinner were hosted through the generosity of Latham and Watkins, LLP; Art Fuccillo '78, Lerner Enterprises; and Bruce Parker '78, Venable LLP.
The first workday of the conference, February 24, included an instructional component. Judge Robert Bacharach of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Chad Readler of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Lawrence VanDyke of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, explained how the writing achieves its purpose analytically, organizationally, rhetorically, and diplomatically, and how different strategies help achieve the purpose.
The third day of the conference had the clerks divided into breakout sessions of five each. Judge Armando Bonilla, United States Court of Federal Claims, Judge Kathryn Davis of the United States Court of Federal Claims, Judge Ryan Holte, United States Court of Federal Claims, Judge Edward Meyers of the United States Court of Federal Claims, Judge Lee Rudofsky of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Judge Eleni Roumel of the United States Court of Federal Claims, and Judge Victor J. Wolski, United States Court of Federal Claims all reviewed and critiqued draft opinions that the clerks had written. That problem was based on a First Amendment issue derived from Catholic Law’s past Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. The sessions focused on conversations about style, mechanics, strategies, and approaches taken in the drafting process.
The conference ended with a lunch and ethics panel discussion with Catholic Law Professor J. Joel Alicea and Judge Trevor McFadden, United States District Court for the District of Columbia. After the discussion Alicea and McFadden took questions from the clerks. Professor Harmon then closed the afternoon and thanked those in attendance for coming.
The conferees are all eligible for the CSL Prize in Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing, to be judged by the aforementioned judges, which will be based on another issue from Catholic Law's past Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition.
The Columbus School of Law Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing Conference is planned to take place every spring semester. It is part of Catholic Law’s First Amendment Initiatives, four programs dedicated to the discussion and study of the First Amendment. For questions, contact Catholic Law’s Faculty Associate Dean of Bench and Bar Programs, Professor A.G. Harmon: firstname.lastname@example.org.