News & Events
Posted March 7, 2013

Schmalzbach '10 to Clerk for Justice Thomas

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Brian Schmalzbach

Brian Schmalzbach, a 2010 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, will clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Brian Schmalzbach, a 2010 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, will clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the 2013-14 term.

Contact: Brian McNeill

"I considered myself extremely lucky just to meet Justice Thomas," Schmalzbach said.  "To have the opportunity to clerk for him — it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

An attorney with the law firm Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C., Schmalzbach is one of two UVA Law alumni who will serve as Supreme Court clerks during the term that gets underway in October. Katherine Mims Crocker, a 2012 graduate of the Law School, is slated to clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

Prior to joining Latham & Watkins, Schmalzbach was a law clerk for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III '72 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Charlottesville. The clerkship, Schmalzbach said, was a "fantastic experience" that gave him insight into the mind of a "master writer." 

"Judge Wilkinson treats his clerks like family," he added. "He has been so helpful throughout this process."

He said that he is also looking forward to getting to know Justice Thomas, noting that the justice has an "incredible life story" and that "his former clerks rave about their experience."

Schmalzbach, who is from Arlington, Va., attended Brown University before transferring to the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 2007.

He then enrolled at UVA Law, where he served as Articles Development Editor of the Virginia Law Review.

Schmalzbach also served as a research assistant to Professor A.E. Dick Howard in a landmark Virginia case arising from disputes between the Episcopal Church and several parishes over the ownership of church property.

"Brian displayed creativity and a rich sense of intellectual curiosity in making sense of doctrines that are daunting for even the most seasoned scholars in the field," Howard said. "Going even further with his investigations, Brian then wrote, for the Virginia Law Review, a note which is a model of scholarship."

Howard called Schmalzbach one of the most remarkable students he has ever taught and praised his "formidable intellect."

"I was constantly amazed at Brian's ability to handle so many responsibilities so well, and to do so with poise and grace," he said. "He and his wife welcomed their first child in his third year, and he never lost his pace, able to be a loving family man while being a top student."

Howard added that Schmalzbach is "kind, congenial, and collegial."

"He was active in the life of the Law School and of the larger community, serving, in his first year in law school, as the treasurer of a local church," he said. "He is, all in all, a good and caring citizen." 

As a law student, Schmalzbach said he benefited from the advice of UVA law professor Micah Schwartzman, who encouraged him to consider clerking.

"There's no question," Schmalzbach said, "that I would not be in this position without the steadfast support of the professors at UVA."

Schwartzman said that Schmalzbach is "super-smart, maybe even scary-smart, except that he is such a nice guy."

"He worked very hard for what he has accomplished, and I am thrilled that he is headed to the court next year," he said. "It is hard for me to think of someone more deserving of that honor."

Looking ahead to his clerkship, Schmalzbach said he expects his biggest challenge will be keeping up with his fellow clerks.

"I know that they are just marvelously talented," he said. "It will be such a rewarding experience to work with the brightest and the best."