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Scalia: Only ‘silk purse’ clerk candidates need apply

Hey, law students: do you have dreams of clerking for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia? Well, unless NYU Law was your “safe school,” you probably don’t have a shot.

At a recent speaking engagement, Scalia was asked by a law student what she could do to be successful, despite the fact that she isn’t attending one of the nation’s elite law schools. According to a New York Times report, Scalia started off diplomatic.

“Just work hard and be very good,” he said.

Could that hard work and goodness result in Scalia choosing the student as a clerk? Um, no, the justice said.

“By and large, I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into,” Scalia said. “They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, O.K.?”


  1. Justice Scalia is not only an intellectual powerhouse but also one of the wittiest Justices.

    Referring to his notion of the dead Constitution, Justice Scalia once said, “that didn’t work, so I invented ‘enduring Constitution’,” and he went on, “Packaging is everything.”

    Last month I had the pleasure of attending Justice Scalia’s lecture at UNM School of Law. It was amazing:
    “What are evolving standards? I’m afraid to ask,” said Justice Scalia.

    Earlier this year Justice Scalia also spoke at University of Central Missouri :
    – “If you are going to believe in a living constitution, at least let it be an American one.”
    – “Classes of little kids from grammar school come to the court now and then and repeat, ‘The Constitution is a living document.’ And I have to tell them it’s dead.”

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