- During the 110th Congress, in September 2008, the House passed a bipartisan bill by voice vote to create a pilot program with six law clerk positions in each chamber.
- In the 111th Congress, the bill (H.R. 151) won overwhelming support in the House 381-42, with bipartisan sponsorship by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Lungren (R-CA). A companion bill in the Senate (S.27), sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and cosponsored by then-Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Kent Conrad (D-ND) did not reach a floor vote before the end of session.
- In the 112th Congress, Reps. Lungren, and Lofgren re-introduced the bill in the House as H.R. 1374 on April 5, 2011. The bill nearly passed the House by unanimous consent but did not reach a floor vote before the end of the session. To read the text of H.R. 1374 (which is substantively identical to S.27 and H.R. 151 from the 111th Congress), go to: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr1374/text
- We are in the process of locating primary sponsors and co-sponsors in the House and Senate for the 113th Congress. Our team is writing advocacy letters, reaching out to the legal community, and meeting with members of Congress to move the initiative forward.
- The primary committees of jurisdiction are the House Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Sen. Schumer (D-NY).
- Support from Members in the caucus leadership in both chambers would be very helpful, as would support from the Ranking Members and others on the House Rules, Senate Rules and Administration, Senate and House Judiciary, and Senate and House Appropriations Committees.
- Please write to your Representatives and Senators to encourage them to support the creation of a congressional clerkship program. You can find contact information for your members of Congress at:
Example Letter to Congress
Dear <Senator or Representative>,
As a <constituent / supporter / friend>, I write to urge you to support the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act. The Act would create in Congress a law clerk program analogous to the law clerk program of the Supreme Court and lower courts. Congress and the legal community would both benefit from a law clerk program that brings energetic, dedicated recent law school graduates to Capitol Hill to work for a year as legislative lawyers. We expect the Congressional Clerkship Act to be introduced in the House/Senate in the very near future. I hope that you will vote in favor of the bill when the time comes.
Unlike the other two branches of the federal government, Congress does not have a standardized, unified program created with new lawyers in mind. This lack of a legal apprenticeship program is a key part of why Congress, among the three branches, is the least influential on the constitutional perspective of the legal profession.
Legislation is central to legal practice, providing the statutory substance and foundation for most federal law today. Statutory interpretation and the legislative process are complex, and yet in law school they receive nowhere near the emphasis placed on court process and interpretation of judicial decisions. A Congressional Clerkship Program would help Congress gain access to young legal minds while helping the legal profession gain a better understanding of both Congress and the statutes it produces.
The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act would create a pilot program of 12 year-long law clerk positions, equally divided between the chambers and between Democratic and Republican offices. The program would pay Congress’s clerks the same as U.S. district court clerks, and hire them on the same fall schedule. The annual cost of the program is estimated by CBO at one million dollars per year – less than the cost of the larger Supreme Court clerk program, and easily justified by the potential benefit to Congress and legal interpretation of the law it writes.
It is time for the 113th Congress to pass the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act. I urge you to cosponsor and work to pass this legislation creating a Congressional Clerkship Program to train a new generation of lawyers who will more fully understand Congress's constitutional role, the legislative process, and the U.S. Code it produces.