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IL-SEN Tue Sep 08 2009
Former City of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman is running for the US Senate as a Democrat; it should then come as no surprise then that on his campaign website's bio page, his campaign left out some details from his resume that were present on his IG office bio: his clerkship for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a conservative icon, and the lesser-known conservative 2nd Federal District Judge Dennis Jacobs.
This appears on his campaign bio page:
Earlier in his career, Hoffman served as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and for a United States Court of Appeals Judge. He also served as Press Secretary and legislative assistant for foreign policy to U.S. Senator David Boren (D-OK), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
His IG bio page, removed since his resignation (scroll to bottom for a screen grab), read as follows:
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's office, Hoffman served as a law clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court during October Term 1997. The prior year he served as a law clerk for Judge Dennis G. Jacobs, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York City.
If you're wondering what opinions were handed down in the October Term 1997, the most well-known cases were probably Vacco v. Quill, a right-to-die case, and Printz v. United States, a case that weakened the enforcement of the Brady Bill. Another case, Bragdon v. Abbott, found that sufferers of asymptomatic HIV qualified under Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA); Rehnquist dissented in this latter.
When I asked Hoffman about the extent of his involvement in these cases--particularly Printz, he was confused for a moment. "I wasn't involved with that case...I actually clerked in 96-97." The error was in his original IG Bio. The October Term 1996 had fewer controversial cases; the most noted for the lay public is probably United States v. Virginia, which struck down VMI's males-only admission policy. Rehnquist concurred with the majority. Indeed, Hoffman did clerk in the 96 term; the experience led him to describe Rehnquist as "the smartest guy I know."
"In any case, clerks don't have as much input into cases as they'd like to think. And for Chief Justice Rehnquist, he had three clerks...we each got only 1/3rd of the cases. We prepared memos...and we disagreed on a great number of things, obviously."
Clerking for Rehnquist was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that no twenty nine year old attorney could be faulted for taking. Judge Jacobs provides a slightly different case--his opinions have been undeniably conservative, and clerking for him less of a no-brainer. In 2006 the New York Sun described him as "Widely recognized as one of the more conservative jurists on the 2nd Circuit."
While in the legal profession, particularly the higher courts, birds of an ideological feather tend to flock together, conversations with attorneys revealed that this probably doesn't amount to much; one member of the American Constitution Society who requested anonymity, said,
In Supreme Court clerkships you take whatever you can get. Most judges in the federal courts take people with high grades and law review seats, and could care less about politics.
Hoffman confirmed that his pursuit of clerkships was apolitical. "I didn't write the bio on the campaign site, and clerking for Chief Justice Rehnquist and Judge Jacobs, that's not something I've ever tried to hide. It's something I talk about to law students--something I cite. Law students are advised, when it comes to high level clerkships--cast a wide net. And a significant number of clerks don't share the judge's ideology." For reference, Judge Richard Posner, probably the most esteemed conservative jurist in America, clerked for Justice William Brennan, among the most progressive judges in the Court's history. "Clerking at the Supreme Court, it's an honor, and an opportunity so few people get. It was an honor every day I walked into that building."
Given that Hoffman was head of the Law School Democrats at the University of Chicago, it's unlikely that those clerkships represented a suppressed ideological longing. So what did Hoffman take away from working with conservative legal icons?
"Thinking back, we would have lively debates. It was a great training. I never shied away from expressing my opinion to Judge Jacobs."