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Federal judges who cherry-pick their clerks by hiring them a year early will have to wait until their candidates have reached fruition. Backed by an overwhelming vote, the federal bench announced Monday that it will no longer conduct early interviews for much sought-after federal clerkships, putting to rest a controversy that took root several years ago. “I’m hoping it’s good news for the judges and the students,” said Hastings College of the Law’s career services director, Sari Zimmerman. Calling it an “unacceptable practice,” an ad hoc committee of federal judges announced that students will no longer be offered clerkships before the third year of law school, and that law schools should help discourage students seeking early offers. “The law school will do nothing to facilitate the release of official transcripts and they will discourage faculty members from sending letters of reference or making calls on behalf of law clerk applicants before the fall of the third year of law school,” the committee said in a press release. To help get courts back on a normal hiring cycle, no interviews besides third-year students applying for next year’s open clerkships will be held this fall. Clerkships used to be handled in such a manner. But a few years ago, some judges began seeking to hire the country’s best students early. That, in turn, led many judges to seek early commitments, rather than lose out on the best help. Consequently, second-year students were left scrambling not only for summer internships, but clerkships as well. “Basically, people have just survived their first year and then you have all these things thrown at them,” Zimmerman said. It also left judges with less of a record with which to consider the students, other than first-year grades. “My general view is that the process had become insane,” said Norman Spaulding, acting professor of law and chair of the faculty clerkship committee of the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. “Faculty were put in the position of having to write letters based on having a student in one class — usually a large, first-year class,” Spaulding said. Whether judges and law schools stick to the system remains to be seen, and it is unclear how or if the new system would affect U.S. Supreme Court clerkships. In the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most sought-after courts by prospective clerks, judges typically keep three clerks (some keep four) who start their tour in September. Two 9th Circuit judges, Stephen Reinhardt and Pamela Ann Rymer, served on the committee. It was co-chaired by 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward Becker and D.C. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards. “We are convinced this is a good solution to an old and thorny problem,” the committee wrote.

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