When we last wrote about Isaac Lidsky in May 2008, he was about begin a clerkship for retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Supreme Court. As the first blind person to work as a Supreme Court law clerk, he was excited but seemingly undaunted by the prospect, having blown past other barriers on the road to achievements that would be enviable for any 29-year-old, sighted or not: child actor, Harvard Law School grad, Internet entrepreneur, charitable foundation founder, and an appellate lawyer with a dozen arguments under his belt for the Justice Department.
His year with O'Connor, working also with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was "everything I hoped for and more -- a phenomenal, incredible experience," Lidsky said Wednesday when we caught up with him in London. He headed there after his clerkship so his wife Dorothy could pursue an educational opportunity she postponed for his clerkship, and also so he could be one of four Temple Bar Scholars. That's a prestigious program sponsored by the American Inns of Court Foundation that brings four young American lawyers to England every year to strengthen ties between the two legal systems.
After his stint with the Temple Bar program ends, Lidsky will begin as an associate at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, working with appellate co-leaders Thomas Goldstein and Patricia Millett. They're in D.C. but he'll work in the firm's London office until his wife's graduate degree program ends in 2010. "He's a great lawyer, and he knows everybody," said Goldstein, who said he "ran, not walked" when he learned Lidsky was interested in the firm. Though as a clerk Lidsky is barred from working on Supreme Court cases for two years, Goldstein said Lidsky will work on other appellate matters in London and in the states. "He'll come back and argue" in lower courts in the U.S., Goldstein said. Lidsky will probably not write for the firm's Scotusblog right away, Goldstein said, because of the two-year bar.
For now, Lidsky is having a blast getting to know the British legal system. He's there at an especially interesting time, as the new Supreme Court is launched as an institution separate from the House of Lords. He was on hand for the opening of the legal year at Westminster Abbey, has met all the new justices and many leading barristers in London, and has spent time in the Blackstone Chambers, a leading human rights firm that does "some pretty cool litigation." Lidsky said, "I'm like a kid at a candy store." As in the states, Lidsky said everyone has been "absolutely sensitive and welcoming" about his visual impairment, the result of retinitis pigmentosa. He credits the Royal National Institute of Blind People for helping him in numerous ways.
Another highlight of his stay in London comes tonight, Lidsky said, when he'll join several U.S. justices who have travelled to London to help celebrate the new Supreme Court. The U.S. ambassador is hosting a reception for Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, as well as their British counterparts. Lidsky's only regret is that Ginsburg, who was also supposed to be part of the U.S. delegation, won't be on hand. As we reported here yesterday, Ginsburg fell ill Wednesday night after boarding the plane for London and was taken to a hospital in D.C. She was released Thursday after observation overnight, but it was too late for her to catch up to the London events.