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Inside the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s July 1 retirement announcement has made almost no perceptible difference. Petitions still flow into O’Connor’s chambers, her four clerks from last term are leaving in phases and looking for jobs, and her three new clerks are reporting for duty, with plenty of work to do. The reason that so little has changed lies in O’Connor’s carefully worded July 1 letter to President Bush, which states her retirement is effective “upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor.” As things are shaping up, that means her new clerks will have at least a couple of months of experience before their settled plans for working seven-day weeks as clerks at the Court for the next year begin to change. The new clerks are Benjamin Horwich, a Stanford Law School grad; Amy Kapczynski, a graduate of Yale; and from Harvard comes Alexander Volokh — yes, the brother of University of California-Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, who also once clerked for O’Connor. So what happens to the trio once O’Connor officially leaves? One will likely stay on, since retired justices are assigned one clerk. It is not certain how that clerk will be picked. When Justice Lewis Powell Jr. retired, his four clerks drew a name out of a hat to decide. As for the other two, they could be redistributed to, or shared with, other justices’ chambers; they could be made available to O’Connor’s successor; or they could be offered the chance to reapply to the Court next term. Or, conceivably, the clerks could be shown the door. After Powell retired abruptly in late June of 1987, two of the three law clerks who suddenly were out on the street had jobs by August. No tears need be shed, then, for the O’Connor clerks whose lives have been scrambled by her resignation. Lawyers at the firms that like to hire Supreme Court law clerks say the O’Connor trio will have just about the same cachet as clerks who spend the entire term at the Court. “Anyone who was hired as a Supreme Court clerk would be a valuable commodity on the market, no matter how long they work there,” says Jones Day partner Michael Carvin, who says he has already talked to some of last term’s O’Connor clerks about jobs at his firm. The clerks — past and future — enter a job market that continues to be stunningly lucrative. Last year, hiring bonuses for Supreme Court clerks topped $150,000 at some firms — in addition to starting salaries at that level or higher. As for O’Connor’s offices, it appears likely she will be uprooted for the second time this year when she retires. Because of the ongoing Court modernization project, she had to move once already, to an office once occupied by Justice William Brennan Jr. Also because of that project, office space is at a premium at the Court. So chances are that when her retirement becomes official, O’Connor will move out of the Court building to the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building a few blocks away. The building, opened in 1992, was designed to handle the office needs of up to three retired justices at a time, and both Justices Byron White and Harry Blackmun set up shop there. Back at the Court, if tradition holds, O’Connor’s office space will be offered to current justices, and only if none of them wants to move will it be given to the new junior justice.

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