This is the second installment of a series of interviews I am doing on judicial clerkships. The first interview was with Third Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro; that interview can be found here. In this interview the focus is on clerkships at the federal district court level.
Robert S. Lasnik is a United States federal judge who sits on the District Court for the Western District of Washington State.
Born in 1951 in Staten Island, New York, Judge Lasnik attended Brandeis University (B.A., 1972) and then Northwestern University (M.S., journalism, 1973 & M.A. in education, 1974). Following that, he went on to the University of Washington School of Law where he received his J.D. in 1978.
Prior to his service on the Court, he was a deputy prosecutor in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (1978-1981) and then a senior deputy prosecutor (1981-1983), and later chief of staff in that office (1983-1990). Thereafter, he served as a Superior Court judge in King County (1990-1998).
President Bill Clinton nominated him to the Court on May 11, 1998. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on October 21, 1998, and received his commission on October 22, 1998. He served as Chief Judge from 2004 to 2011. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him to serve as a member of the Judicial Conference Executive Committee.
Some of Judge Lasnik’s more notable opinions include Browne v. Avvo, Inc. (2007) (“To the extent that their lawsuit [contesting lawyer rankings on a public website] has focused a spotlight on how ludicrous the rating of attorneys (and judges) has become, more power to them. To the extent that they seek to prevent the dissemination of opinions regarding attorneys and judges, however, the First Amendment precludes their cause of action”), and Video Software Dealers Association v. Maleng, et al (2004) (enjoining Washington State law prohibiting the sale of video games depicting violence against police officers). More recently, he authored Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon (2013), which the ACLU labeled as a “landmark case on indigent defense.”
Welcome, Judge Lasnik, to our corner of the blogosphere here at Concurring Opinions. It is an honor for us to have you contribute to this blog.
Question: How many law clerks do you have, and how long are their terms?
Answer: I have one career law clerk who has been with me since my appointment in 1998, and a one-term law clerk whom I hire on a one-year basis. Occasionally, where there is mutual agreement by mid-year, I have extended the clerkship to a second year.
Question: Tell us a little bit about how the clerkship application process and how it works in your chambers. For example, when do you first start accepting applications, and up to what point do you stop considering them?
Answer: I start accepting applications in September, the year prior to the start of the clerkship. Interviews begin in January/February and are on-going until I fill the position.
Question: How much do you rely on OSCAR?
Answer: I post open positions on OSCAR. However, we do request hard copies of materials.
Question: Some district judges are now seeking law clerks with some experience as a practicing attorney. What do you think of that and is it something you either are now doing or plan to do?
Answer: I do require a year of experience either clerking in federal court or for a state’s highest court or practicing law. I find that having some real-world experience makes for better clerks and that the clerks also get more out of the year.
Question: How far in advance do you select your clerks? Some federal judges are now hiring two years in advance? What is your practice?
Answer: I hire the same year of the opening although occasionally, where I have two outstanding candidates, I will extend an offer for the next year to the one who comes in second. This has happened on two occasions and I’m so glad I got both outstanding clerks.
Question: About how many trials do you preside over in a calendar year?
Answer: I do approximately eight trials per year—half civil and half criminal.
Question: Do you have any idea of how many orders you issue in a year?
Answer: 2,039 civil orders, 206 criminal orders, and 194 miscellaneous for a total of 2,439. This covers the period from the June 2013 to June 2014. Read More