Heritage Foundation’s Ethically Dubious Law Clerk ‘Training Academy’ Suspended

October 19, 2018 10:22 a.m.

The Heritage Foundation’s “training academy,” set up to groom law clerks for prominent judicial posts, has been suspended after the New York Times published the questionable requirements of the program, including secrecy about the teaching participants received there in exchange for the financial backing of “generous donors” who allowed them to complete the program.

Some legal experts told the Times that it is inherently problematic for a very conservative group to secretly train future judges to have loyalty to its ideals and practices.

Some of the questions on the application materials — since removed from the Heritage Foundation’s website — reportedly inquired about potential participants’ stance on originalism and ideological alignment with current or former Supreme Court justices. As the Times points out, it is unclear if a participant who took liberal stances on those two essay questions would have been admitted.

“Law clerks are not supposed to be part of a cohort of secretly financed and trained partisans of an organization that describes itself on its own web page as ‘the bastion of the American conservative movement,’” Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan told the Times. “The idea that clerks will be trained to elevate the Heritage Foundation’s views, or the views of judges handpicked by the foundation, perverts the very idea of a clerkship.”

Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch were picked from a list of contenders curated by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, another conservative organization focused on the judiciary.

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