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WASHINGTON � A long tradition of father-daughter pairings among U.S. Supreme Court law clerks is about to be carried on by a Northwestern University law school graduate named Jessica Phillips. Phillips, daughter of veteran Supreme Court advocate and onetime Warren Burger clerk Carter Phillips, begins this summer as a law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito. Responding to an inquiry from Recorder affiliate Legal Times, Alito said this week through court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg that Jessica Phillips will have no involvement in cases in which her father’s firm, Sidley Austin, participates. That leaves Alito’s other three clerks to work on Sidley cases. Jessica Phillips, 27, was on the editorial board of the Northwestern Law Review in 2005-2006 and is clerking for Joel Flaum, a judge on the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. She would have been clerking for Alito already, if Alito had remained on the Third Circuit. Alito’s plans to hire her were interrupted, so to speak, when he landed his new job. But, according to a Northwestern newsletter, once Alito joined the high court, he “asked Phillips to update her resume and throw her hat into the ring for a Supreme Court clerkship.” She landed the job and told the Northwestern publication, “As the most junior member of the court, [Alito] will be learning the ropes along with his law clerks, and I hope that 20 or 30 years from now I can look back and say that I played some small role in shaping his legacy.” Carter Phillips was also a top Northwestern law student and clerked for Judge Robert Sprecher, Flaum’s predecessor, before clerking for then-Chief Justice Burger in 1978.
‘I could not be more proud of [Jessica]. She worked so hard in law school and is so much more savvy than I was in 1978. She will be something special as a clerk.’

CARTER PHILLIPS, on his daughter becoming a Supreme Court clerk


Phillips says of his daughter, “I could not be more proud of her. She worked so hard in law school and is so much more savvy than I was in 1978. She will be something special as a clerk.” Alito and Carter Phillips are longtime friends. They both interviewed for jobs at the solicitor general’s office on the same day in 1981 (Jessica was 1 at the time) and were hired by Wade McCree, then the solicitor general. In January 2006, Phillips testified on Alito’s behalf during Alito’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. Carter Phillips and his firm Sidley Austin are frequent filers of direct party and amicus curiae briefs at the high court, with involvement in as many as 20 percent of the argued cases in any given term � posing a recusal issue for his daughter that most other father-daughter clerk pairings have not faced. Under court rules for law clerks, it is up to each justice to determine how to handle clerks’ potential conflicts of interest. Jessica Phillips declined to comment. Alito has established himself as a stickler on ethics when it comes to his clerks. During deliberations last term in the Guantanamo detainee case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Alito law clerk Adam Ciongoli recused himself, even leaving the room before any discussions took place. Ciongoli had been legal counsel to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and helped draft the order establishing military commissions for enemy combatants. At least five daughters of male clerks have become clerks themselves:

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