Friday, May 13, 2011

New federal bill would create Congressional law clerks; Georgetown starts its own program now.

The proposed bill would provide funding to allow Congress to hire law clerks just like federal judges do. From the National Law Journal;

Advocates of congressional clerkships are dreaming big, but starting small. The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act of 2011, a bill introduced in April by U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), would create a pilot program with 12 clerks. The Committee on Rules and Administration of the Senate and the House Committee on House Administration would select clerks from a centralized pool. Each chamber would get six clerks, to be divided between the parties.

Legislators and committee would compete for the clerks by offering the most attractive type of work. The clerks would choose where they want to spend their year.

Keeping the pilot program small will help ensure that competition for clerk spots is stiff, said Yale Law School professor Bill Eskridge, a leading authority on the legislative process. The plan will have succeeded, he said, if the congressional clerkships carry prestige equal to that accorded to federal court clerkships. The long-term plans calls for the program to expand after the pilot phase.

Supporters acknowledge that getting the bill passed during this legislative session may be difficult, given that Congress in budget-cutting mode. The cost of the pilot program is relatively small--about $1 million per year, with clerks earning the same salary as clerks in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia--but the cost has been a hurdle in the past.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has sponsored the bill in the Senate, but its chances would be greater with a Republican co-sponsor and a plan to offset the cost, Rudesill said.

Georgetown University Law Center isn't waiting for Congress to get on board. Dean William Treanor announced in April that the school would independently finance two year-long congressional clerk positions for recent graduates at as cost of about $100,000.

Read more here.


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