Supreme Court Clerk David Pozen ’98 Speaks to the School

To be a clerk to a Supreme Court Justice is the epitome of the legal profession for a young lawyer, and so RL was proud to welcome back to Hall one of our own, David Pozen ’98 who has just completed a year as law clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens—the final year of Stevens’ almost 35-year term. (See photos from Hall.)

For his Class VI to Class I listeners, David explained the structure of the Supreme Court and its function as the leader of the federal judiciary, making clear everything from how justices are chosen to how cases make their way to the highest court in the land. He explained that some 8,000 cases are submitted to the Supreme Court for review each year, and of those only 80 are chosen. The initial culling of this flood of appeals is largely the work of the law clerks, of which each justice has four.

David began his address in Hall with the admission that his own modus operandi while a student at RL was to use class time to complete the homework just handed out in the previous class. One day in English, David was busily undertaking his latest physics assignment when Mr. Randall stopped the class to ask David why a physics textbook was open on his desk instead of the novel being discussed. “Mr. Randall promptly announced that he would produce his own lesson in Physics,” recalled David. “He swept up my textbook and all my notebooks, opened the window and threw them out, where they eventually landed three stories below.” David said the greatest lessons he learned from Roxbury Latin were not intellectual ones, but basic ethical ones, and it wasn’t until after he graduated that he understood just how much his RL masters had had his best interests at heart.

Questions from the students at the end of his talk included “What led you to study law?” (“I kind of backed into it—I was unsure what to do after college. In some ways law school has become a "second bachelor’s”—a way to round out a liberal arts education.”) Another student asked about the value of transparency in the Supreme Court, and a third student asked if the clerks found themselves in competition or rivalries with each other. To that David responded that the four clerks of any one justice tend to work well together as a team—to wit, his own group. But between teams working for different justices, especially if a contentious issue was on the table (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), things could certainly heat up.

While a student at RL, David left his mark in the academic and athletic arenas, as well as in a multitude of extracurricular activities, earning the Dartmouth Book Award, French, History, and English prizes, the Samuel Huntington Wolcott Scholar Athlete Award, and graduating summa cum laude and elected valedictorian by his classmates. A four-year varsity player on both the soccer and tennis teams, David captained both teams his senior year. He also served as editor of Tripod, winning the Publications Award.

At Yale David graduated summa cum laude in Economics and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was the founding officer and president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, and a member of the Yale varsity soccer team. After earning a master’s degree in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford University, he returned to Yale for law school, earning his Juris Doctor and serving on the Yale Law Journal.

Upon his graduation from law school, David was appointed Special Assistant to Senator Edward (“Ted”) Kennedy on the Judiciary Committee and also served as a post-doctoral associate as the Yale Law School Heyman Fellow. Following that position, David spent a year as a law clerk to Judge Merrick B. Garland in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before clerking for Stevens this past year. David is now Special Assistant to the U.S. Department of State’s legal adviser (and former Dean of Yale Law School) Harold Koh.

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