Choosing a Court

Choosing a Court

There are special ethical considerations involved in applying for clerkship positions. The most important of these is that you should only apply for clerkships that you would accept if offered. When applying for a clerkship, you are applying for the honor of working with that particular judge. It is unacceptable to waste the judge's time by submitting an application to a clerkship that you are not prepared to accept.

There are very few acceptable reasons to turn down an offered clerkship. One of these is of course that you have accepted another clerkship. One other is that after meeting the judge, you determine that you are not a good personality match. In both of these cases, you should immediately withdraw yourself from consideration as soon as the issue arises. Generally, however, salary, geographic concerns, prestige, deciding to take a firm job instead, and many other possible reasons are concerns that you should work out before submitting applications, not after a clerkship has been offered to you. If you have questions or concerns about any of these ethical responsibilities, make an appointment with Erin Fullner in CPD to talk about it.

If you're thinking about a clerkship, talk to Erin Fullner about eligibility criteria and application deadlines. It's also helpful to speak with a faculty member who has clerked, to get a feel for what a clerkship is about. A list of faculty members who have clerked may be found on our Faculty Clerks page. CPD also maintains a list of SU grads who have clerked.

Federal Courts
Begin your research at by clicking on the section of the state that you are interested in and then following the provided links to the court's own Web site. This will often give you a biography of the judge and some information about the issues in which that judge is interested.

Once you have identified federal judges for who you might be interested in clerking, you should begin researching the judge's hiring policies and timeline. There are several places to start this research. Some judges accept only electronic applications through the OSCAR system, while others accept only paper applications.

You will need to register as a user of OSCAR before you can begin researching judges. Click on the "applicant registration" tab and fill in the information requested. Then you can get on the system and sort judges by geographic area or by court to find ones that appeal to you.

Other research resources are available through Erin Fullner.  

Federal court clerkships based in Seattle and other large metropolitan cities are highly competitive. Students interested in Federal District Court clerkships are encouraged to consider a wide geographic area and to focus more on compatibility with the judge.

U.S. Supreme Court clerkships are extremely competitive and are almost always a second clerkship, after a previous clerkship in one of the U.S. Courts of Appeal. SU has had one U.S. Supreme Court clerk.

Federal Courts of Appeal clerkships are also extremely competitive. Grades, class rank, and membership in Law Review are key hiring criteria for these clerkships. Several members of the Ninth Circuit sit in Seattle. Judges usually have two clerks.

Federal District Court clerkships are available with judges and with magistrates. Judges usually have two clerks. In Washington, the U.S. District Court has members who sit in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Yakima.

Specialty Courts, such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Tax Court, also take clerks. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court has members who sit in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Yakima. Other specialty courts sit in other parts of the country-for example, the U.S. Tax Court sits in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Court of International Trade sits in New York City.

State Courts
Information provided here is specific to Washington state courts, but students are encouraged to consider applying to other state courts as well. Some state court judges prefer students with a connection to the area, while some prefer to hire a diverse group of clerks. CPD can provide guidance on which courts have recently interviewed and/or hired SU students.

For Washington State clerkships, begin your research at the state courts Web site. The site contains links to all state courts, many of which provide comprehensive biographical information on judges.

Washington State Supreme Court clerkships are excellent opportunities to learn state law. The nine justices of the state Supreme Court sit in Olympia and each has two clerks.

The Washington Court of Appeals sits in Seattle (Division I), Tacoma (Division II), and Spokane (Division III). Most judges have two clerks. SU has had many clerks in these courts.


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