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By Ari Kaplan

The late Richard Sheppard Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit occasionally joked that federal judges are selected on merit, and that his merit was knowing two U.S. senators. While such knowledge often is important, connections alone will not propel one onto the bench of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As six GW Law alumni who have reached that extraordinary milestone will attest, that feat is earned through a combination of stellar credentials, community commitment, and a deep appreciation for the rule of law.

From the Law School’s perspective, having alumni on the federal appellate courts is highly beneficial. “They tend to hire our students, and getting circuit court clerkships puts our students in a position to apply for Supreme Court clerkships,” says Professor Bradford R. Clark, outgoing chair of GW Law’s Clerkship Committee and himself a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Robert Bork of the D.C. Circuit.

Since the Law School started tracking clerkship data in 1990, seven students have clerked for Supreme Court justices; more than 100 for judges on the Circuit Courts of Appeal; and more than 200 for judges on the district courts, not to mention hundreds of others who have worked for judges on specialty federal courts (such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and U.S. Court of Federal Claims) and state courts across the country.

At last count, there were 28 judges serving in the federal system with degrees from GW Law. “The fact is that our students could one day become a circuit or district court judge, or a state supreme court justice down the road,” Clark says. “We tell our students that we have great alumni and they go out and do great things. They are an inspiration.”

The Law School maintains a clerkship Web portal and an extensive handbook. Both feature details on judges who have a connection to GW Law. “A federal clerkship is a big stepping-stone because it makes that select group of graduates more prominent,” says Professor Gregory E. Maggs, incoming chair of the clerkship committee and former clerk to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy, as well as Judge Joseph T. Sneed on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. “It reinforces the reputation of the Law School.”

Ultimately, the reputation of the Law School is reinforced when its graduates succeed in the law. Or when they shape it, as in the case of those alumni receiving presidential appointments to wear the robe in one the most prestigious positions set forth in the Constitution. These alumni have made their mark on a system of jurisprudence that interprets the majesty of a nation one case at a time. After repeatedly distinguishing themselves as lawyers, they successfully navigated through the White House Counsel’s Office and the Offices of Legal Counsel, Legal Policy, Antitrust and the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice before ever getting to the desk of the president. They not only exemplify the very best that a GW Law student can become, but symbolize the power of determination, hard work, and unwavering commitment.

Clyde H. Hamilton, JD ’61, 4th Circuit

Clyde H. Hamilton

Born in Edgefield, S.C., Clyde Hamilton wanted to be a doctor. The Bachelor of Science degree he received from Wofford College in 1956 was in chemistry, with minors in math and physics; but because there were no night school courses in medicine, he opted for law instead. Fifty years later, the senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has no regrets.

Toward the end of his active two-year ROTC commitment as a U.S. Army first lieutenant (captain, 1962) at Arlington Hall, the headquarters of the U.S. Army Security Agency (the cryptography effort during World War II), Hamilton met with Dean Edward Potts to discuss GW Law’s evening program. During that meeting in February 1958, the dean advised Hamilton that classes were starting in 45 minutes—he enrolled immediately. When he was honorably discharged in September of that year, Hamilton continued his studies at night and began working full-time for famed South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond as a research analyst in the Senate Library. After graduating 16th from GW Law out of 129 students in the day and evening divisions, Hamilton practiced for 20 years with Butler, Means, Evins & Browne, a Spartanburg, S.C., firm of about 15 lawyers through which he engaged in a combination of insurance defense and transactional work.

“I really don’t think I had any career goals while I was in law school. Certainly, becoming a federal judge was the farthest thing from my thoughts,” Hamilton, 72, recalls. In fact, when Thurmond, whose various campaigns Hamilton supported, approached Hamilton about an appointment in early 1981, it was to be the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina. Six months after declining that opportunity, the senator expressed an interest in adding Hamilton to the federal bench. President Reagan officially appointed Hamilton to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on Dec. 1, 1981, where he served for almost a decade before President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on July 22, 1991. Hamilton assumed senior status on Nov. 30, 1999.

Of his time at the Law School, Hamilton notes, “Without hesitation, Professor Emeritus David Weaver stands out in my mind as the professor who influenced me the most.” This was because Weaver was very professional, demanding, and a professor who expected the most from his students. Outside the classroom, Weaver and his wife entertained the students in their home.

While Hamilton currently has two non-rotating senior clerks, he had four clerks before attaining his current status, two of which were rotating. His relationship with those clerks, including two from GW Law, was so strong that they threw him a surprise 65th birthday party in 1999 and a 70th birthday party in 2004. “It has long been my belief that a judicial clerkship at the federal level is the finest and broadest experience a law school graduate can obtain in a relatively short period of time,” he says.

Hamilton recommends that those interested in becoming judges gain the backing of the senator in his or her state who shares the political philosophy of the president. “You have to be known to the senator either personally or through some other recommendation,” Hamilton advises.

While Hamilton describes his career as “very satisfying, rewarding and fulfilling,” he jokes, “There’s an old saying that ‘being a federal judge may not be the best job in the legal profession, but it’s too good to give up.’”

David R. Hansen, JD ’63, 8th Circuit

David R. Hansen

On July 30, 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated U.S. District Judge David R. Hansen, then sitting in the Northern District of Iowa, to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Hansen, 68, served as chief judge from 2002 to 2003 and assumed senior status on April 1, 2003.

When he graduated from GW Law with honors in 1963, Hansen wanted to return to Iowa and practice law in a small-town, county-seat type of general practice. When asked whether his goals included becoming a federal judge, he responds, “Goodness gracious, no!”

Born in Exira, Iowa, Hansen practiced privately in Atlantic, Iowa, for less than a year before being commissioned by the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps in 1964. He spent the next four years trying courts martial at Ft. Benning, Ga., and as the post judge advocate at Ft. Monroe, Va. Following an honorable discharge and receipt of an Army Commendation Medal in 1968, Hansen continued his practice with three other lawyers focusing on general tax, litigation, probate, and other matters in Iowa Falls, Iowa.

While Hansen had no intention of becoming a judicial officer upon graduation from GW Law, he was drawn to the bench after less than a decade. “I thought I was the kind of lawyer who could find reasonable accommodation between the warring parties,” he recalls. “I thought that was the judge’s role and, therefore, sought it out.”

From four years on the Iowa Falls Police Court to more than a decade as a governor-selected trial judge in the 2nd Judicial District of the Iowa District Court, Hansen distinguished himself as a gifted jurist. President Reagan confirmed this view by appointing him to the federal bench, as did the late Chief Justice of the United States William H. Rehnquist when he asked him to serve on the elite, seven-member Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation.

Hansen describes his career as a succession of ever-increasing, interesting challenges. “I am very grateful to the people of this state and nation, and to their elected representatives, for allowing me to serve them as a judicial officer.”

He recalls his time at GW Law with affection, citing professors David Siedelson (torts, conflict of laws, and domestic relations) and Monroe Henry Freedman (contracts and appellate practice and procedure) as the two faculty members who influenced him the most. “Both of them instilled in me the necessity of considering all the facts, and of contemplating all of the possible legal and practical ramifications of a decision about the applicable law,” Hansen says.

Carlos F. Lucero, JD ’64, 10th Circuit

Carlos F. Lucero

Carlos Lucero, a 66-year-old jurist from Antonito, Colo., understands why GW Law places great value on student and alumni clerkships. After graduation, he went on to clerk for U.S. District Judge William E. Doyle in the District of Colorado and spent the next 30 years in a private litigation practice with five other lawyers in Alamosa, Colo. “I loved the work,” Lucero says. “I think lawyers are lucky and privileged to be in a profession that allows us the opportunity to work for the broader causes of justice.”

While serving as president of the Colorado Bar Association from 1977 to 1978, Lucero grew in stature both locally and nationally. He was considered for a seat on the U.S. District Court in the late 1970s, but declined to engage in the process. More interested in becoming an elected official than an appointed one, Lucero followed a passion for politics. “I always knew that I would spend part of my life in public service, perhaps elective service. The judiciary was not foremost in my mind,” he says.

After running unsuccessfully in 1984 for the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate, Lucero withdrew from the public eye. His reputation, however, continued to gain prominence and earned him the admiration of another commander-in-chief. President Clinton appointed him to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on March 23, 1995. “I spoke with the president to thank him for my nomination. It was a great thrill,” Lucero says.

Lucero recommends that those interested in following in his footsteps be the very best lawyers they can be, concentrate on their careers, exercise impeccable ethical judgment, and improve their communities. Although, as we have heard before, Lucero says that it doesn’t hurt to have friends in high places.

For those students interested in clerking for the judge, Lucero says to “get very high grades and flash your charming personalities.” Having hired four clerks in the past and another scheduled to begin in the fall of 2007, Lucero remains actively connected to the Law School. He credits professors Leroy Merrifield (torts), who was “a true gentleman,” and Monroe Friedman (contracts), who “asked a lot of questions” for his style on the bench. “I try to emulate a composite of both qualities,” he says.

Lucero’s newest clerk-select, Jefferey Dee Bailey, a 4L evening student and former risk consultant for Ernst & Young, sent in applications for more than 100 clerkships (five of which were with alumni). “This is probably only about the mid-point of what other GW Law students send out,” Bailey says.

The federal clerkship application process requires clerk-hopefuls to submit data to judicial prospects on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Judges have seven days to read their information and can contact candidates as early as the following Thursday (nine days after Labor Day) at noon Eastern Standard Time. “I received 12 calls between 12 and 12:15 that day,” Bailey says.

According to Bailey, one does not answer the phone when the judge’s staff calls. Instead, one waits for a message and returns calls in a predetermined order of preference. Because of their GW Law connection, Lucero was at the top of Bailey’s list.

“I am excited about my clerkship with Judge Lucero,” Bailey says. “A clerkship like this gives you the chance to work closely with a successful, well-respected lawyer who can serve as a mentor for the remainder of your legal career.”

Randall R. Rader, JD ’78, Federal Circuit

Randall R. Radar

The concept of mentoring is extremely important to Randall Rader, who teaches at the Law School and is a great supporter of the clerkship program. Upon graduating in 1978, Rader considered an opportunity to become a federal judge akin to lightning striking. When President Reagan appointed the prominent lawyer, then counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, to the U.S. Court of Claims at 39 years old, “lightning struck.” In fact, the 57-year-old Hastings, Neb., native became the first judge on the Court of Claims ever appointed by the chief justice of the United States to a committee of the Judicial Conference.

Based on Rader’s record and experience as chief counsel or minority chief counsel for the Subcommittee on the Constitution and the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights, President George H.W. Bush nominated Rader to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1990. “I am thrilled that I have had this chance and don’t take it lightly that I have,” he says. “Those of us who get the opportunity have to feel very blessed.”

Rader credits professor John Cibinic Jr. (contracts, government contracts) with encouraging him during his first year. “His meticulous attention to legal detail inspired me in my early years of work and then on the bench as well,” Rader says. “He told me to ‘hang in there’ and I regard him always as a particularly important part of my law school career.”

In addition to having hired nine GW Law graduates as clerks, Rader also has taught trial advocacy and several general and specialized intellectual property law courses at the Law School. “What I enjoy most of all is getting to be the Cibinic in their lives,” Rader says.

The co-author of a casebook on patent law that is used at nearly 50 law schools counts his former students among some of his best friends and former clerks among family. “One of the greatest benefits of my career has been to associate with former students and law clerks who were former students.”

Describing his career as “one rewarding challenge after another,” Rader highlights that the first step toward becoming a judge is to clerk. “That distinction sets a lawyer aside as an outstanding member of our profession,” he says. “Young lawyers interested in the bench should devote some time to work in the bar association or other organizations that display willingness to engage in public service,” he adds. Of course, he suggests that lawyers participate in the political process because recommendations for judges often come from U.S. senators and other political leaders.

Kenneth F. Ripple, LLM ’72, 7th Circuit

Kenneth F. Ripple

If you are not politically inclined, consider establishing yourself as a remarkably talented constitutional scholar, and political leaders will take notice, as they did of Kenneth Ripple.

Straight out of the University of Virginia Law School in 1968, Rockville Centre, N.Y., native Kenneth Ripple became a corporate counsel for IBM. Three months later, he was called to active duty in the Vietnam War and spent the next four years with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps in Washington as an appellate defense lawyer and staff member pursuing the return of prisoners of war, among other matters. During this period, he earned an LLM in administrative law and economic regulation from GW Law. “It was an opportunity to learn a lot about something I wanted to know about,” he says.

Ripple recalls adjunct professor John Stark, staff director for the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, as a mentoring influence on his career. “One of the strengths of GW Law is that it is able to get people with high scholarship and government service to come to teach students,” Ripple says. “I found that throughout my time there, I had some of the best teachers I have ever had.”

Perhaps his finest teacher, however, was Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, for whom he served as special assistant for four years before becoming a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Ripple’s scholarship during almost a decade at Notre Dame and his experience with the Supreme Court earned him the recognition of the legal community and President Reagan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 1985.

At the time, his three sons, who are all pursuing legal careers, were younger and wanted clerks selected based on the cars they drove and their basketball prowess. Ripple, however, looks for clerks with a judicial perspective on issues and who are disciplined enough to consider views on each side. “I have had quite a few clerks from GW Law over the years, who have really measured up in that way,” he says. He focuses on that balance because “you’re in this job a long time and you kind of weave a tapestry. You can’t miss a stitch in that tapestry or the fabric is weaker.”

Ripple, 63, monitors the fabric of his own life on a wall in the outer office of his chambers, where he places pictures of those individuals who have impacted his life in a positive and meaningful fashion. “I had a great deal of help along the way,” he says. “My career has been a product of God’s grace.”

Glenn Leroy Archer Jr., JD ’54, Federal Circuit

Glenn Leroy Archer Jr.

In 1985, President Reagan had big plans for Glenn Archer—a seat on the Federal Circuit. Archer had long had other plans. Notwithstanding his major in English literature at Yale, the 77-year-old Kansas native always felt he was destined to become a tax lawyer because of his mathematical acumen. “I did not think of my career goal as becoming a judge, I just wanted to be a tax specialist,” he says.

After graduating from GW Law in 1954 and following two years with the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps, professor John Fey, his tax instructor who later became a Supreme Court clerk, helped him select his first (and last) job in private practice. Archer spent the next 25 years with Hamel, Park, McCabe and Saunders, a boutique tax firm in Washington. “I had a great practice,” Archer recalls.

His expertise and success in assisting a member of President Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet” (which, according to Archer, was that group of individuals who were advising Governor Reagan during his national campaign) with tax work for a conservative think tank in Washington earned him the respect and esteem of the executive branch. When he applied to be the assistant attorney general for the Tax Division in 1981, Archer was known as an excellent tax practitioner. “I think I have been very fortunate in my career,” he says.

During his time at the Department of Justice, Archer thought he might want to be on the U.S. Tax Court. When the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was formed in 1982, he became very curious about that position. That curiosity was satisfied in 1985 when President Reagan appointed him to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In his 20 years on the bench, he notes that the highlight was serving as chief judge and on the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1994 through 1997, when he elected senior status.

While the employer of five GW Law graduates over the years notes that a clerkship for a young lawyer is a great learning experience, he had no guidance for lawyers seeking positions on the bench, saying appointments are a matter of “being in the right place at the right time.”

Alumni and the Judiciary

Alumni in the judiciary gathered for a special reception at the Law School on Sept. 7. Front row, from left to right: J. Michael Ryan; Lawrence Margolis JD ’61; Joyce Hens Green, JD ’51; Dean Frederick M. Lawrence; Ann Keary, JD ’74; and Bruce Mencher, JD ’60. Back row, from left to right: James Robertson, JD ’65; Alan Kay, JD ’59; Darrin Gayles, JD ’93; and Chuck Adkins-Blanch, JD ’90.

Abdul El-Tayef/WPPI

When GW Law announced that it had selected Frederick M. Lawrence of Boston University School of Law to serve as its new dean, Superior Court for the District of Columbia Senior Judge Bruce Mencher, JD ’60, began planning a welcome reception at the courthouse on behalf of fellow alumni in the judiciary. “I thought that he might need some judges on his side coming to Washington from New England,” Mencher says with a laugh.

In an effort to bring those alumni in the judiciary together, Lawrence decided to invite them to the Law School instead. The event was held Sept. 7 in the Michael K. Young Faculty Conference Center. Alumni enjoyed meeting the new dean, discussing their careers and personal lives, and listening to jazz. The event was hosted by Mencher; Joanne Alper, JD ’75; James Cacheris, JD ’60; and Cathy Hollenberg Serrette, JD ’80.

“It provided a forum for members of the faculty and administration to visit with our alumni judges and, more importantly, it provided an opportunity for the alumni judges to visit with one another,” says Professor Amanda Tyler, a member of GW Law’s Clerkship Committee and a former clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. “Our goal is to have our judicial alumni know that they are an important part of the GW community of which we are very proud.”

Mencher, a former Assistant Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia and attorney adviser for the U.S. Agency of International Development who was nominated at 39 by President Gerald Ford to serve on the D.C. Superior Court as an Article I judge, noted the power of that connection and its impact. “We get something from the Law School—its great reputation and pride—and it gets the same from us,” Mencher says. “We draw on each other, we take from each other and we blossom from each other.”

Alumni in the judiciary gathered from D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and as far away as Florida. Dean Lawrence thanked the attendees for making the Law School and its faculty “look good” in doing so well with their degrees, to which Mencher responds, “I am always proud to say that I went to GW Law.”