Career law clerks may not have a national organization, but they appear to be banding together in the name of workers' rights.
The recent flurry of attention began with an e-mail, sent May 29 by Linda Hylenski, a career law clerk for Judge Gerald Rosen on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, to the listservs for all clerks across the country. Hylenski’s beef: a set of “cost-cutting proposals targeting career law clerks” by a committee for the Judicial Conference.
The proposals, she wrote, centered on only one group of judicial employees: career law clerks. Among the suggestions: barring judges from taking on new career law clerks and limiting career law clerks from switching between chambers.
Unlike other sets of employees (namely, court reporters) career law clerks have no national organization to stand up for their rights, she wrote. So Hylenski sought replies from other comrades interested in commenting on the proposals. “Having a national list will help ensure that career clerks will be notified about any proposals/recommendations and comment periods, whether or not they choose to join any unified letters,” she wrote.
But not every clerk was so sanguine about the message. Many replied to the entire list, clogging inboxes, and sparking a war of words between the quiet foot soldiers of the nation’s judiciary. Short-term law clerks, supportive or otherwise, appeared quite peeved at the loss of precious work time that deleting the flood of e-mails caused.
One clerk, Michael Schaps, fired off a request for replies “if there are any term law clerks out there interested in supporting the cost-cutting proposals targeting career law clerks.”
One posted a recipe for grilled yellowfin tuna, another for tater tot casserole.
For her part, Hylenski says she didn’t intend to draw such attention. She says she received a few hundred interested replies from career law clerks, but declined to discuss their efforts further. “This is something we’re trying to deal with internally,” she says.