Article III Groupie feels like vomiting -- and no, it's not because she's bulimic (or has had one too many cosmopolitans). A reader just e-mailed her this wedding announcement from Sunday's New York Times, with the following subject line: "Nauseating, isn't it?" Article III Groupie couldn't agree more.
You're about to ask: "Article III Groupie, this is just the wedding announcement for Susan Kearns and Steven Engel, two associates in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, the elite Chicago law firm. What does this have to do with federal judicial celebrities?" Article III Groupie has several responses. First, multiple federal judges were in attendance at the wedding, as discussed in more detail below. Second, Mr. and Mrs. Engel -- yes, she's taking his name -- are no ordinary law firm associates. They are members of the Elect.
As you may recall from UTR's special report on the Right-Wing Judicial Divas, "the Elect" is UTR-speak for Supreme Court clerks: those divine, incandescently brilliant men and women who have descended from the heavens to grace the rest of us with their presence. (Article III Groupie has also heard them referred to as "the Anointed," with the rest of us called "the Great Unwashed," and these terms will also be used in UTR's pages.)
Members of the Elect are an appropriate topic for discussion here for at least two reasons. First, they are fabulous celebrities of the federal judiciary in their own right. The 35 young men and women who clerk each year at the U.S. Supreme Court are, quite simply, the best and the brightest of the roughly 50,000 new lawyers minted in America each year. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before the Elect go on to become federal judges themselves.
Pictured at right: The Supreme Court building at One First Street, where the Elect sit around and reflect on their own greatness. (Photo credit: Geek Philosopher.)
Second, this blog will frequently, and justifiably, talk about law clerks. When we see Article III jurists working their judicial magic, pulling brilliant opinions out of hats and making cases and controversies disappear, we can't overlook the important contributions of their law clerks. The law clerks who provide their bosses with critical research and writing assistance -- and who, for lazier judges at least, come perilously close to exercising the judicial power of the United States -- are the Santa's elves of the federal courts. Like Santa's elves, clerks are the behind-the-scenes workers whose efforts are essential to the proper functioning of the system. As the Divine Miss M might say, law clerks are the wind beneath the wings of federal judges.
So, back to the wedding announcement of the Engels, who are members of the Elect. By the way, please note the careful statement that the Engels are, not were, members of the Elect. As the old saying goes, "Once a Supreme Court clerk, always a Supreme Court clerk." There is no such thing as a former Supreme Court clerk -- being a Supreme Court clerk is not a job, but a state of being.
Here is UTR's annotated version of the announcement (which you can compare with the original if you are so inclined):
Susan Elisabeth Kearns, a daughter of Elsie R. Kearns and Thomas M. Kearns of Larchmont, New York -- #179 on Worth magazine's exclusive list of the 250 richest towns in America, with a median home price over $625,000 -- was married there yesterday to Steven Andrew Engel, a son of JoAnn and Mark F. Engel of Sands Point, New York -- which comes in at #44 on the Worth list, with a median home price of $1.1 million. Judge John G. Koeltl of the Federal District Court in Manhattan -- who is the bride's uncle, who clerked for Justice Potter Stewart, and who used to be a partner at the white-shoe New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton -- officiated at the Larchmont Yacht Club. Fifth-ranked feeder Judge Alex Kozinski of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit -- who clerked for Justice Kennedy (back when he was on the Ninth Circuit) and then Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and who feeds his clerks to AMK like grapes -- took part in the ceremony.
The couple, both 29, met in 2000 when both were law clerks for Judge Kozinski, who works his clerks to death. (Thus, before getting married, the couple lived together -- in the slave ship called the Kozinski chambers, that is!) The following year, they were clerks at the Supreme Court, she for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and the bridegroom for Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The bride and bridegroom are now associates in the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis, the Chicago law firm, where they get much better assignments than their colleagues from the Great Unwashed.
Mrs. Engel graduated summa cum laude from Duke and received her law degree from New York University. Mr. Engel graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and received a master's degree in history from Cambridge, where he was a Knox Fellow. He received his law degree from Yale.
Pictured at left: Surely the Engels' cake was more luscious than this one. (Photo credit: Pics4learning.com.)
Wow, Article III Groupie doesn't know what hit her! Was that the announcement for a wedding, or for a legal professional eugenics experiment gone mad? Such is the way of the world. The rich get richer: Larchmont marries Sands Point. The smart get smarter: legal geniuses marry each other (and produce brilliant babies). The Elect, like Ptolemaic rulers, marry one another, so as not to dilute their bloodlines. Their weddings are presided over by fellow members of the Elect. And a generation later, their offspring will join the ranks of the Elect themselves, heading off to clerk at the Court, where they will in turn meet the loves of their lives, beginning the cycle anew...
(Before you object that Article III Groupie is getting carried away, she would point out that marriages between Supreme Court clerks happen with remarkable frequency. She can think of at least five such high-powered couples in the past ten years, which perhaps she will profile in future reports.)
For the record, Article III Groupie harbors no ill will towards the happy couple. Indeed, she sends her best wishes to the Engels (who are supposed to be lovely people, quite friendly and humble despite all of their accomplishments). But she strongly objects to how Supreme Court clerkships have become the Willy Wonka golden tickets of the legal profession. So many top-shelf opportunities within the law, such as tenure-track professorships and jobs in the SG's office, are already reserved for members of the Elect. Must we add romantic love to the list of goodies that you're entitled to only if you've clerked for the Supreme Court?
No, no, don't be silly; Article III Groupie isn't bitter or resentful or anything! Article III Groupie isn't thinking right now about how, if only her own Supreme Court clerkship interviews (yes, that's plural) had worked out, her life would be so different today. ("Could have been so beautiful, could have been so right...")
Oh, who are we kidding? Woe is her! If Article III Groupie were one of the Elect, she would be writing appellate briefs on sexy constitutional issues -- not reviewing documents in the fug of an interior conference room (and spending her limited free time venting her spleen in self-indulgent rants over the internet). If she were one of the Elect, she would be sharing her bed with a hunky Supreme Court clerk -- not a pint of Uncanny Cashew and the remote control for her TiVo.
Pictured at right: The Great Unwashed. They didn't get Supreme Court clerkships -- and now their lives are ruined! (Photo credit: Pics4learning.com.)
And so Article III Groupie issues this clarion call to her fellow members of the Great Unwashed: "Non-Supreme-Court-clerks of the world, unite!"
Mad as hell and not going to take this any more,
P.S. Yes, Article III Groupie realizes that she is being ridiculous in asking for your sympathy given her privileged position. Article III Groupie is grateful for all of her blessings: her family and friends, her excellent education, her lucrative employment, and her Jimmy Choo shoes (not necessarily in that order). The foregoing just goes to show that, no matter how much you achieve and how fortunate you are, you can always find someone to be jealous of, someone to make you bad feel about yourself!