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Posted Jan. 25, 2010

Stern ’09 and Crane ’07 to Clerk for U.S. Supreme Court

Stern, Crane
James Stern '09, left, and Paul Crane '07 will clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

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Contact: Mary Wood

Two Law School graduates will clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court next year. James Stern ’09 was selected by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Paul Crane ’07 will clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts.

“I can’t think of a bigger honor and privilege,” said Crane, a former Bristow Fellow at the Office of the Solicitor General. “Working at the Solicitor General’s Office, I got to see a lot of cases from the perspective of an advocate, which was incredibly interesting in its own right, and I really enjoyed that. To now have the opportunity to see it from the perspective of the court and just to see the workings of the court is something most lawyers can only dream of.”

Crane, currently an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, also earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, where he majored in history and politics. In law school he served on the managing board of the Virginia Law Review. The Atlanta native clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III ’72 on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after graduation.

Crane said he was excited to get the call to interview with Roberts.

“The whole thing’s been very surreal from the beginning,” he said. “He’s incredibly nice, and we had a really good conversation. Just walking into the Supreme Court building was awe-inspiring, and getting to meet him was a thrill.”

Crane said he was happy to get the chance to continue to learn and work with talented people.

“I’ve definitely had some variety of experiences, between the Solicitor General’s Office and this year as an assistant U.S. attorney, so I hope to bring some diversity of legal experience to the job, but I know a couple other people who will be there next year and they’re all incredibly talented and have amazing stories,” he said. “When I hear their backgrounds I feel like I don’t belong, but I’ll take what must have been a clerical error.”

Like Crane, Stern landed a clerkship with Wilkinson, who has seen many of his clerks continue on to the Supreme Court.

“I’m very much enjoying my current clerkship, so I expect a lot of the things that I like about this job to carry over,” said Stern, a Brunswick, Maine, native who graduated from Harvard with a degree in American history and literature.

Stern worked for five years before coming to law school, including as a teacher at a high school in England, for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and most recently as a speechwriter for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“It was a great job. I very much enjoyed it,” he said.

In law school Stern was an articles development editor for the Virginia Law Review, where he wrote his note on the conflict of laws doctrine. Just months after graduating, he was interviewing for the Supreme Court.

“Of course I was nervous — you have to be pretty crazy not to be,” Stern said. “Justice Kennedy was extremely friendly and extremely gracious, and I very much enjoyed talking with him. He put me at ease right away.”

Stern will be moving with his wife and two children to Washington, D.C., this summer.

“I’ve read so many opinions of the court as a law student — it’s very exciting to me to have the chance to participate in a small way in the formulation of opinions going forward,” Stern said. “It’s a great honor to be able to take part in that.”

Professors who taught Crane and Stern praised their accomplishments.

Crane “is superbly talented,” said Professor John C. Jeffries Jr., who taught Crane’s first-year criminal law class while dean. “He was not only at the top of his class [at graduation] but also widely known, well-liked and sincerely admired by his classmates.”

Professor Lillian BeVier said Stern stood out for his feel for the way law works and showed “many signs of becoming a seriously effective advocate.”

“He is deeply interested in law,” she said. “He has the curiosity as well as the tenacity of a genuine scholar, and he cares enormously about understanding legal principles and getting things right.”