Also in this month's SideBar...
Law School News...
More from SideBar...
Newest professor, former Supreme Court clerk to teach constitutional litigation
Chris Walker, the soon-to-be newest member of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law faculty, learned quickly that sometimes the stars just align. One day, while quietly slugging away at his desk, the U.S. Supreme Court called. Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wanted to see Walker in Washington, D.C. in a week to talk about a clerkship position. While struggling to decide whether to choose Harvard or Stanford for graduate school, Walker figured out that one can, in fact, attend both. And, when his favorite boyhood football team – the Florida Gators – were just starting to fade ever so slightly, it turns out Walker and his beloved former head coach were interviewing to be Buckeyes at just about the same time.
“To this day I don’t know for sure how the Supreme Court thing happened,” Walker said. At the time, he was clerking for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The year before, Walker had applied to all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, as is etiquette; but he did not receive a single interview. So, he dove into his work with Kozinski. He also applied for and was accepted to work on the civil appellate staff at the U.S. Department of Justice after the clerkship ended. The job at the DOJ was a career position.
But, then one day the phone rang in chambers. Or, maybe it was a private outgoing call?
“I don’t know who called who. It wasn’t interview season,” Walker said. “All I know is that Judge Kozinski walked into my office and said Justice Kennedy wanted to see me in Washington, D.C. the following week to interview for a clerkship position for October Term 2008. The judge and the justice know each other, and I had been working closely with Judge Kozinski on some important projects. I was obviously completely surprised.
“In the interview, I spent a couple hours with the current clerks, being grilled on substantive issues, and then I spent about an hour with the justice. His first question was, ‘How are we doing?’ In other words, he was concerned about whether the public understood the Supreme Court’s rulings. Justice Kennedy’s concern for transparency and public understanding is something I’ve always admired about Justice Kennedy.”
Walker spent a year with the DOJ before heading to Justice Kennedy’s chambers, where he spent a year in the inner sanctum of the court.
“Obviously, very few people know about how the Supreme Court works. They see oral arguments, and then they read opinions. But there is a very deliberative process that happens in between,” Walker said. “The justices interact primarily through written work going back and forth through draft opinions and comments.”
That’s about all Walker will say about the Supreme Court. Like all former clerks, he is tight-lipped on the details.
Walker attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate. He had dreamed of attending Harvard’s Kennedy School for Public Policy since he was a kid in Las Vegas. The problem was he also was interested in law and fell in love with Stanford on a visit to the law school.
“Stanford and Harvard law are really different,” Walker said. “Harvard is huge, with almost 650 students per class. Stanford is small, with one-third of the students. This meant I would have better access to professors, which was important to me because I knew I wanted to go into teaching.”
Walker did the logical thing: He attended both. He spent his first year of law school at Stanford and then a year at Harvard, partaking of the first year of classes at the Kennedy School. For years three and four, he jetted across the country taking classes at both Stanford and Harvard.
“I loved law school. It is really about breadth and depth at the same time,” he said. “The Kennedy School is focused more on breadth with speakers and events talking about a wide range of policy issues but perhaps without as much depth as in law school.”
Walker’s favorite class in law school was constitutional litigation, which he took with Professor Pamela Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford. Walker will be teaching the same class at Moritz.
“That is one of the reasons I chose Moritz. It is a dream to teach this class,” he said. “It is a great mixture of constitutional law, civil procedure, and trial strategy. Lawyers really need to choose the right plaintiffs and defendants if the constitutional landscape is going to change.”
Walker became interested in the area not only from Karlan’s class, but his stints at the DOJ and with the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Judge Kozinski is a great writer and has a libertarian bent to the law; so it was a great fit for what I wanted to do,” Walker said. “It was an intense clerkship. We worked seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. with a two-hour dinner break. I really refined my persuasive writing skills. At the same time, Judge Kozinski takes great pride in taking difficult concepts and reducing them down in writing to something that a sixth- or seventh-grader could understand.”
Since finishing his clerkships, Walker has been working for Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel P.L.L.C., a boutique litigation firm in Washington, D.C. In the past three years, he has worked on both appellate and trial cases.
As a law professor, his research focuses on administrative law and the role of the government in citizens’ lives.
As far as learning the correct response to the popular “O-H!” cry, it might take some getting used to on Walker’s part.
“I am a huge Florida Gators football fan, which is odd for a kid from Las Vegas,” Walker said. “But now that Urban Meyer is here, I don’t think it will be too hard to become a Buckeye fan.”
Walker, his wife, and his 16-month old son will move to Columbus in June. The move won’t be the only big change for the family this summer. A baby Buckeye is due in July.