From Plano to Pago Pago: SMU Graduates Clerk at Top Courts

From Plano to Pago Pago: SMU Graduates Clerk at Top Courts

SMU Dedman School of Law graduates are heading to judicial chambers

May 2015 (DALLAS) - This year, eleven top SMU Dedman School of Law graduates are heading to judicial chambers as near as downtown Dallas and Plano, Texas, and as far away as American Samoa. They have been selected by judges at all levels of the state and federal judiciary. Two students will clerk in Texas appellate courts, seven in Article III courts (federal district and circuit courts), and one each in the immigration court of the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review and in the Article IV High Court of American Samoa.

Jennifer Smiley, one of two students who will be clerking for a federal district judge, believes that a “clerkship [will be] a perfect first job for my interests and for gaining experience in litigation.”  She will be clerking for Magistrate Judge B. Dwight Goains in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas., while Sam Bragg will be clerking for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Several students will benefit from having previous experience in chambers. Eight of the eleven students, including Smiley and Bragg, have prior chambers experience due to their participation in the Federal Judicial Externship class, co-taught by full-time Legal Writing faculty member Beverly Duréus and the Honorable A. Joe Fish, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. “After learning to think critically like a judge, how to author judicial opinions, and to hone in on other ethical considerations and skills germane to life in chambers, our externs quickly transition into confident and experienced clerks,” commented Duréus. “Our eight weeks of classroom instruction and the hands-on experiences gained in chambers by our externs, place them well ahead of the learning curve and allow them to hit the ground running upon being hired as clerks, a very attractive commodity as noted by many judges and justices who have hired our externs,”
 
John Adams, a participant in that course and a fall 2014 judicial extern with Senior Judge A. Joe Fish, agreed. “It was a great chance to research legal issues and improve my writing. I was able to spend time with an experienced judge and I worked closely with his clerk.” In the fall, John will be clerking for Judge Alia Moses in the Del Rio Division of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas.
 
Two other students who took the federal externship course will be clerking with Texas appellate courts and one will be clerking with a federal appellate court. Chris Knight will clerk for Justice Jeff Brown on the Supreme Court of Texas and Haleigh Jones is set to clerk for Justice Douglas Lang of the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Bryan Clegg will have the opportunity to clerk in the Fifth Circuit Court of the United States. Bryan sees the opportunity to clerk for Judge Haynes “as a dream come true”. “I cannot imagine a better place to begin my legal career: learning about the legal profession alongside a federal appellate judge, obtaining extensive research and writing experience, and consistent exposure to briefs written by seasoned advocates will all prove invaluable to my professional development. I am confident that my time in chambers will make me a better attorney."
 
Another student, Annabel Pedraza Rocha gained experience in chambers when she externed with Judge Martin Hoffman in the 68th Civil District Court in Dallas. “It was very rewarding to have the opportunity to apply my academic knowledge to practical situations,” said Annabel, “from understanding why attorneys were disputing in camera review of evidence to following a complicated explanation of the responsible entity in an action to pierce the corporate veil, it was during my externship that I was finally grateful for enrolling in courses such as evidence and business enterprises.” Through this experience as a 2L, Annabel is now well prepared for her post-graduate clerkship with the Executive Office of Immigration Review for the U.S. Department of Justice in Eloy, Arizona. Annabel was also chosen for the Attorney General’s Honors Program, a highly selective and prestigious program that is the sole avenue to entry-level employment as an attorney in the Justice Department.
 
Fourth year evening student Allison Gault  will be working in one of the more exotic locations, American Samoa in Pago Pago, for Associate Chief Justice Richmond on the High Court of American Samoa. She stated, “I am excited about this opportunity because it is so unique and will offer me the chance to improve my writing skills while learning about a new part of the judicial system.”
 
SMU Dedman School of Law is proud to honor the work of our students who have accepted offers for judicial clerkships.
 
Judicial Clerkship Class of 2015
 
Student Class Term Judge Court
John S. Adams 3L 2015 Judge Alia Moses US District Court, Western District of Texas, Del Rio Division
Sam Bragg 3L 2015 Judge Jane Boyle US District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division
Bryan Clegg 4E 2016 Judge Catharina Haynes Fifth Circuit Court of the United States
Jasmine Culpepper 3L 2015 Judge Sam Lindsey US District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division
Allyson Diane Gault 4E 2015 Associate Justice Lyle Richmond High Court of American Samoa
Haleigh Jones 3L 2015 Justice Douglas Lang Fifth District Court of Appeals of Texas
Chris Knight 3L 2015 Justice Jeff Brown Supreme Court of Texas
Andria Rae Minyard 3L 2016 Judge Gloria Navarro US District Court, District Court of Nevada, Las Vegas
Annabel Pedraza Rocha 3L 2015 Immigration Court, DOJ Honors Executive Office Of Immigration Review, Eloy, AZ
Ian Ross Phillips 4E 2015 Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney US District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division
Jennifer Smiley 3L 2015 Magistrate Judge B. Dwight Goains United States District Court for the Western District of Texas