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Just before Justice Carlos Moreno was confirmed to the California Supreme Court last week, he pulled together a staff composed of a bit of the old and a bit of the new, including a fresh-out-of-school research attorney who has made a few headlines of his own. That newsy newcomer is Tal Klement, a 2001 Yale Law School graduate who had clerked for Moreno on the Los Angeles federal court only two months, but wowed the justice enough to be brought along to San Francisco. Klement didn’t return telephone calls for this story, but Internet searches pull up plenty of stories about him. For one, Klement, who was born in England in 1972, became an American citizen in 1998 after overcoming extreme opposition by the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s San Francisco office. The INS had refused citizenship because Klement, who was born with shortened arms and three fingers on his right hand and two on his left, couldn’t provide a full set of 10 fingerprints. To the cheers of disability rights activists and the embarrassment of the INS, Klement persisted and finally prevailed. Klement also made headlines earlier this year when he and another student at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government authored a report showing a racial disparity in undercover drug arrests in Seattle. The report combined drug arrest data with interviews with more than 30 police officials, judges, public defenders and drug treatment providers. The findings were embraced, at least in part, by Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, according to The Seattle Times. Klement came north with Alison Markovitz, who also had clerked for Moreno in federal court for only a couple of months. Markovitz didn’t return telephone calls either, but Moreno confirmed that she, too, graduated from Yale Law School this year. Others joining Moreno as research attorneys are Steven Levine, a 14-year Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at New York’s Yeshiva University, and Robert Katz, a Stanford Law School graduate who was on the late Justice Stanley Mosk’s staff for eight years. Serving as Moreno’s chief of staff is Gregory Wolff, a graduate of L.A.’s Southwestern University School of Law who has been on Chief Justice Ronald George’s staff for 15 years. Levine, Katz and Wolff didn’t return calls, but Moreno said he chose them — as well as Klement and Markovitz — because of their “outstanding” qualifications. Moreno also hired Pat Sheehan, Mosk’s secretary for about two decades, but didn’t retain Mosk staffers Dennis Maio, Judith Schelly and Theodore Stroll. Maio had worked for Mosk for 17 years, and it isn’t clear whether he or the other staffers are being let go or given other jobs at the court. Mosk’s senior attorney, Peter Belton, has joined the Administrative Office of the Courts on a half-time basis as a senior legal counsel. According to AOC Administrative Director William Vickrey, Belton will continue a project in which he is helping rewrite the appellate rules of court. Court watchers said the mix of longtime court personnel with outsiders isn’t unusual. Gerald Uelmen, a professor at the University of Santa Clara School of Law, said it’s wise to “have some staff who know their way around the court,” while J. Clark Kelso, a professor at Sacramento’s McGeorge School of Law, said young attorneys bring “fresh thinking” that challenges the “more mature views of the law.” Both Uelmen and Kelso, as well as Professor Stephen Barnett of the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, said the most significant factor would be if Moreno had one or all of his research attorneys on a yearly rotating basis. The six other justices have ended their rotation hirings, which the professors feel stagnates the court in many ways by preventing the influx of new ideas and fresh trends. Rotating research attorneys, Barnett said, is “generally an antidote for the isolation and bureaucracy that the court otherwise suffers.” Moreno couldn’t be reached to say whether or not some or all of his research attorneys are permanent or will be rotated off annually.

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