A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, as we know. It would be foolish, for instance, to rely on your own experience when hiring law clerks. Just ask Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice.
So here’s Scalia speaking to students at the American University Washington College of Law on April 24:
But then he turned to a discussion of the student’s chances of obtaining the ultimate credential in American law, a clerkship with a Supreme Court justice. Not good, he said.
“By and large,” he said, “I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, O.K.?”
And here’s Scalia, still speaking to students at the American University Washington College of Law on April 24:
“One of my former clerks whom I am the most proud of now sits on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals” in Cincinnati, the justice said, referring to Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton. But Justice Scalia explained that Mr. Sutton had been hired by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. after his retirement and then helped out in Justice Scalia’s chambers.
“I wouldn’t have hired Jeff Sutton,” Justice Scalia said. “For God’s sake, he went to Ohio State! And he’s one of the very best law clerks I ever had.”
Before leaving this discussion of the Supreme Court’s jester, I’ll point out that “the best and the brightest” described, in David Halberstam’s book of that name, the moral midgets from Harvard and Yale who lied us into the Vietnam War.