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October 01, 2005


Bob Jenkins

I guess the judge isn't so smart after all, given that his dumb little quiz has at least one spelling error. I wouldn't want to work for someone who doesn't know how to use a spell checker.


I am a former Boggs clerk and I can attest that he takes disagreement quite well. I took the quiz and walked into my interview with a question. I had never met Boggs, but I started the interview by noting that he had mistranslated the famous Greek line about the death of the Spartans at Thermopylae. His quiz said "They died in obedience to their commands" when it is really "They died in obedience to their laws" - a distinction with a huge difference. Judge Boggs, whose dictum is "why argue when you can look it up", looked it up, found I was right, and we went on with the interview. Obviously, I got the job, and I add my enthusiastic voice as another Boggs clerk who adores him. In fact, he performed my wedding ceremony!


Darn, I'm only sure on 62 of the questions on the current quiz (counting the little mini-questions separately). Silly classics enthusiasts.

In defense of Judge Boggs and the quiz:
1) It's hardly "arrogant" to say "Here are some things I know about; think about them for a while, and we can discuss them." I think the Judge would be quite amused if someone responded by asking their own hard questions about areas they knew a lot about. And, if he had time, I bet he would think about the answers and, if didn't know them already, look them up. My sense is that he gives the quiz because he's genuinely interested in talking about it.
2) The judge certainly doesn't expect anyone to get all the answers right. Or half. Or a quarter. I imagine I got about 20% right, and he thought that was pretty good.
3) It's not like he takes the top four scoring applicants and hires them.


That quiz is ridiculous. Does he actually think it demonstrates someone's "interests" as he states in the intro to it? If that's what he's looking for, then simply ask what candidates' interests are -- in a way that doesn't make them feel dumb for not being able to answer silly questions. Second, these answers are irrelevant to a person's capability or skill vis a vis a clerkship position. The ability or inability to answer does not say anything about your analytical skills or -- here's a thought -- your knowledge of the law. This quiz makes him look like an arrogant asshole. The implied suggestion is that HE knows the answers, and you don't. I wouldn't want to work for someone who's interested in sending that message.

Then again, this arbitrary quiz fits right into the random and arbitrary nature of the clerkship hiring process.

A Former Prospect

The questions have changed a great deal since I took one of the first versions back in 1993. But it still has the same Soviet-Russian/German/Greek cultural emphasis. I was a Classics major in college and knew both Russian and German pretty well after having lived in both Germany and the Soviet Union. I am also a failed mathematician. So the quiz was right down the middle of my various plates.

First, he was incredibly kind and came to me for the interview. Second, the interview process worked: after we'd talked at quite some length--or rather, after he'd talked at quite some length--he didn't want me, and I didn't want him. (It is an interesting question that I will never have to answer whether I'd have turned an offer down.) He was just back from some judicial junket to Russia and thought he knew everything about the place. He does not suffer disagreement well. Not well at all, actually.

So the Sixth Circuit, I say, is fine place for him to stay.


The answer to #2 is "wrong" as well. The question is asking about roman deities so the answer should be Venus and not Aphrodite.


I'm predicting it won't be Boggs, not only because the Grutter issue would get nasty, but also because Bush doesn't want to replay his struggles getting someone appointed to the Sixth Circuit as a replacement for Boggs!


It appears correct to me: 1/512 = (1/2)^9.

The first flip is irrelevant, the next nine need merely match it. It would only be the incorrect answer if the question called specifically for all heads or tails.


Amusingly enough, the answer given for #10 of the 2001 quiz at the New Yorker is incorrect. Hopefully it wasn't Boggs who provided these answers.


Yeow! I hope he grades that on a curve! It could lead to some interesting conversations, but it is also pretty humbling.

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