February 27, 2024

Clerks attending the 4th Annual JCOW Conference2024 Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing Conferees

The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law) hosted its fourth annual Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing Conference from Feb. 22-24, 2024, bringing together distinguished jurists and future judicial law clerks from around the country to examine the art of writing a well-reasoned judicial opinion.

Upon reviewing a record number of competitive applications, thirty-six rising judicial law clerks were selected to participate in this year’s program. The clerks who, in the upcoming year, will serve in the chambers of the federal circuit courts, the federal district courts, or state appellate courts benefited from the conference’s unique and invaluable access to sitting judges to break down and digest how to craft a decision.

Erin E. MurphyKicking off the conference for the clerks and the twelve jurists in attendance, guests were welcomed to Catholic Law for a networking reception and opening dinner featuring Erin E. Murphy, partner at Clement & Murphy PLLC, who delivered the keynote address. The Thursday evening events were hosted through the generosity of The Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation and Board of Visitors member Arthur N. Fuccillo ’78.

Judge speakingDuring the first day of conference workshops, distinguished jurists led five plenary sessions, guiding clerks through their writing processes. Judges Paul B. Matey of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals; Chad Readler of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; Lawrence VanDyke of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and Robert Bacharach of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals explained how an opinion must achieve its purpose analytically, organizationally, rhetorically, and diplomatically.

Judge working with the clerksThe second day of the conference divided the clerks into seven breakout sessions, each led by a member of the judiciary. Judges Katherine A. Crytzer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee; Kathryn Davis, Edward Meyers ’05, Eleni M. Roumel, and Victor J. Wolski of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; Joseph Leeson ’80 of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and Lee Rudofsky of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas all reviewed and critiqued draft opinions written by the clerks. The small groups analyzed the style, mechanics, strategies, and approaches taken in the drafting process.

Closing panel discussionClosing out the conference with a panel featuring Judges Katherine Crytzer, Edward Meyers, and Lee Rudofsky, the discussion, and subsequent Q&A session focused on particular issues and writing needs that can arise while clerking at the trial court level.

The conferees are all eligible for the Catholic Law Prize in Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing, to be judged by the aforementioned judges, which will be based on an issue from Catholic Law's past Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition.

Catholic Law’s Judicial Clerkship Opinion Writing Conference is planned to take place every spring semester as part of the Law School’s First Amendment Initiatives. For questions, contact conference organizer and Catholic Law professor A.G. Harmon, Associate Dean of Bench and Bar Programs: harmon@law.edu.

judge talking to clerks

Judge working with Clerks


Clerk in courtroom session Judge teaching

Judge working with the clerks 

Clerk talking with Erin Murphy

judge working with clerks