Law School graduate to clerk on Supreme Court
Professors praise former pupil Brinton Lucas
University Law graduate Brinton Lucas was recently selected to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the 2014-15 term.
Lucas, who graduated from the Law School in 2011 near the top of his class, made a strong impression on several nationally esteemed constitutional law professors teaching at the University, including A. E. Dick Howard and Lillian BeVier.
“I knew him very well when he was a student,” Howard said. “He … helped me on research I was doing on comparative constitutionalism. His work was superb.”
Howard, who himself clerked for Justice Hugo Black after graduating from law school, said he sees Lucas as not only a former colleague, but also a lifelong friend.
Howard said he estimates he has one or two former students a year who eventually become Supreme Court clerks. Currently, Katherine Mims Crocker and Brian Schmalzbach, both of whom graduated from the Law School in 2010, are currently clerking for Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, respectively.
“Only a handful of students in the country ever become Supreme Court law clerks,” Howard said. He said that for any law student at the top of his or her class, becoming a Supreme Court clerk is one of the highest honors.
BeVier, who also worked closely with Lucas during his time as a student, said while he has the academic skills necessary to excel as a clerk, his personality will prove to be even more valuable.
“He possesses the character traits that a clerk must have,” BeVier said. “He is trustworthy, diligent and conscientious.”
During his third year as a Law student, Lucas worked as part of the University’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, a year-long course in which students handle and prepare actual cases seeking Supreme Court review. Students are accepted into the program only by way of a vigorous application process.
“He was great,” Clinic Director Daniel Ortiz said in an email. “He worked both on identifying and persuasively describing conflicts between the lower courts on important issues of federal law in order to convince the Supreme Court that an issue was significant enough for it to take up one of our cases, and he drafted a whole section of our merits brief in Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, an important First Amendment case. We eventually won it.”
After graduating, Lucas went on to clerk for justice J. Harvie Wilkinson in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and later received a fellowship in Office of the Solicitor General, which argues on behalf of the U.S. government in Supreme Court cases. Lucas is currently a lawyer for the Washington firm Gibson Dunn.
“He has a great career in front of him,” Howard said. “Whatever he chooses to do, he’s going to be a star.”
Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush following Thurgood Marshall’s retirement. Before serving as a justice, Thomas was the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 1982 and 1990, and then served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washingon, D.C.
“It was an honor just to be able to interview with Justice Thomas, so I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity to work for him,” Lucas said in a Law School press release.