My eldest daughter, Tiffany Smith, who is now a third year law student at the University of Utah, recently alerted me to the formation of Ms. JD and its mission. I write to share some of my recent personal experiences and to applaud your efforts.
I was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 16, 2006 as United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and took my oath of office on June 30, 2006. The oath was administered to me by Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder, who, herself, was given a clerkship many years ago by my maternal grandfather, Jesse A. Udall, then Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Chief Judge Schroeder credits my grandfather with giving her a chance to break into the legal profession in Arizona at a time when most judges and lawyers were unwilling to hire women to work as lawyers, regardless of their academic credentials. My grandmother Udall served on a city council at a time when most people advised her "that sort of thing just isn't done."
With such a heritage, coupled with my own experiences as Vice Chairman of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, it should not surprise you that I have a strong commitment to hiring at least two highly qualified female law clerks in each clerkship class.
Because Ninth Circuit law clerks help research often complex legal issues raised in and write concerning a very large number of cases, I believe that persons with law review experience at national law schools are most likely to have successful clerkship experiences. However, while processing several hundred clerkship applications for my inaugural law clerk class, I was troubled to learn that while women make up slightly more than one-half the number of people in national law schools, far more men than women serve on the editorial boards of their respective law reviews.
While I had little difficulty selecting two fine male clerks for my 2006-2007 clerkship class, it took more work to find two outstanding female clerk applicants. Fortunately, a federal district judge and an alert law school placement counselor brought two outstanding female candidates to my attention and I promptly hired them. All my law clerks are doing excellent work.
I participated in the OSCAR program for the 2007-2008 law clerk class and received several hundred applications, as well as numerous applications from persons already working either as law clerks elsewhere or with law firms. During that process, I again noted that far more males with law review experience applied (at least to my chambers) than similarly qualified females. Ultimately, I hired two outstanding men and two outstanding women with law review editorial board experience as law clerks for the 2007-2008 law clerk class, but I found one of my female clerks by using the informal network of my current female clerks.
I salute Ms. JD's goal to build strong networks among female attorneys and law students. I welcome and will carefully consider for clerkships qualified female lawyers and law students and, when I no longer have positions open, will pass the resumes of qualified female candidates on to interested colleagues on my court.
Milan D. Smith, Jr.
United States Circuit Judge
Follow these links to view scanned images of page 1 and page 2 of the letter from Judge Smith.