A Conservative Group’s Closed-Door ‘Training’ of Judicial Clerks Draws Concern

A Conservative Group’s Closed-Door ‘Training’ of Judicial Clerks Draws Concern


A few hours later on Tuesday, Heritage deleted the references to donors, secrecy and loyalty from the application materials it had posted on its website. Ms. Deutsch did not respond to a request for an explanation and to other questions about the program. Nor would she disclose the identities of the program’s donors or its faculty, which was said to include several sitting federal appeals court judges and professors “from various prominent law schools.”

Jill Dash, vice president for strategic engagement at the American Constitution Society, which is often described as the Federalist Society’s liberal counterpart, said there was no comparable program aimed at liberal law clerks.

“I am not aware of anything like this on the progressive side,” she said.

According to the application materials, Heritage’s unnamed donors were to pay for travel expenses to Washington, hotel rooms and meals during the three-day program. The curriculum would cover, the materials said, “originalism, textualism, habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights and other substantive legal and practical subject matter.” Originalism and textualism are modes of interpreting the Constitution and statutes that are generally but not exclusively associated with conservatives.

The application called for several short essays. One prompt said, “Please describe your understanding of originalism.” Another said, “Please identify the United States Supreme Court justice (past or present) whose jurisprudential philosophy and approach to judging you agree with most, and explain why.”

It was unclear whether an applicant hostile to originalism, which seeks to interpret the Constitution as it was understood by those who drafted and ratified it, or who named a liberal justice would have been admitted to the program.

Lawrence Baum, a political scientist at Ohio State University, said the program was an extension of other initiatives from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

“One hallmark of the conservative legal community since the 1980s has been the efforts of its leaders to identify and nurture promising young lawyers with conservative views who may rise to important positions such as judgeships,” he said. “This academy is a good example of those efforts.”



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