Briefing Room


3L’s summer busy following SCOTUS decision

August 29, 2013 | Students

When the United States Supreme Court ruled on Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, the decision affected more than the voting rights of multiple jurisdictions in the U.S. It also shifted most of the summer interns’ caseloads at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

The most-asked questions around the Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room – where the interns, including 3L Derek Clinger, worked – became, “What does this mean in line with Shelby County?” or, “What is the law after Shelby County?”

The CLC is a nonprofit organization that specializes in campaign finance and elections, political communication, and government ethics. It offers nonpartisan analyses regarding administrative, legislative, and legal proceedings, such as Shelby County v. Holder.

The Supreme Court decision nixed Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlined the formula that determined what U.S. jurisdictions have histories of voter discrimination. The court deemed the formula outdated but upheld Section 5, which requires those jurisdictions to obtain federal oversight, or preclearance, before changing election laws.

For Clinger, this meant he would gain more voting rights experience in his internship rather than dabble in campaign finance as he’d anticipated. He was qualified to work on voting rights, though; he interned for the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project last summer.

Amid addressing fallout from Shelby County, Clinger still was able to delve into cases concerning other areas of the law. He had the opportunity to contribute to a comment letter for a Federal Communications Commission lobbying group and got some litigation exposure.

“It was a really interesting experience to go through how organizations lobby and comment on administrative procedures,” he said. “A lot of my work (was) more litigation-centric, but within the context of election law.” That area, Clinger said, was “the drive” for him going to law school in the first place.

Another bonus to his internship, he said, was the strong networking opportunities through the CLC and the city of Washington, D.C. itself

Founding president of the CLC, Trevor Potter, for instance, served as general counsel to U.S. Sen. John McCain in his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns and as satirist Stephen Colbert’s super PAC attorney.

Colbert, in fact, donated funds to the CLC from his faux presidential campaign in 2012 in exchange for a room to be named the “Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room” at the Center. A large portrait of Colbert hangs in that room as well. Clinger cracked that Colbert watched over his shoulder all summer.

On a more serious note, he said of his time at the CLC, “It’s a really great group of attorneys who are leaders in their field. … It’s opened a lot of doors to meet really great people.”

– Sarah Pfledderer