By Andrew Cohen
Individually exceptional and collectively historic, three Berkeley Law graduates will serve as judicial clerks at the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2019-20 Term—the school’s highest single-year total.
Jordan Bock ’17 will clerk for Justice Elena Kagan, Matt Rice ’16 for Justice Clarence Thomas, and Anuradha Sivaram ’14 for Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Coincidental common threads: all were research assistants for Professor Amanda Tyler and clerks at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“With each of them, it was like having another law professor help me—their work was that good,” says Tyler, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Having worked closely with Anuradha, Matt, and Jordan, I’m thrilled that they’ll have the privilege of clerking at the Court and get to enjoy all the great experiences that come with that honor.”
As chair of Berkeley Law’s Faculty Clerkship Committee, Tyler is also thrilled that the school set a record for most overall placements in one term—103 graduates are currently clerking in 32 states.
“Obtaining a Supreme Court clerkship is only possible through an immense amount of support from others,” Rice says. “The support and encouragement that I received during the application process from my recommenders at Berkeley Law … was instrumental in making this dream a reality.”
Bock, Rice, and Sivaram all hailed their prior clerkships as invaluable in bolstering clear thinking, writing, and analytical skills. They also expressed an eagerness to tackle the complex, high-level reasoning that judicial decision-making requires—without losing sight of the real-world impact those decisions have.
Bock graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics and astrophysics and a secondary degree in government. She won the astronomy department’s Goldberg Prize for best senior thesis, probing explanations for the dearth of women in the physical sciences.
After college, she joined Teach for America and taught middle school science in Maryland and California while earning a Master’s degree in education. Bock graduated first in her class at Berkeley Law, clerked for Judge Michelle Friedland (Ninth Circuit), and is now clerking for federal judge Vince Chhabria ’98 (Northern District of California).
“Jordan has all the tools to be a great Supreme Court clerk, but the best thing about her is that she never flaunts those tools,” says Chhabria, a former Supreme Court clerk himself for Justice Stephen Breyer. “That too will serve her well.”
Bock appreciates deeply her time with Friedland and Chhabria and how they “truly encourage their clerks to think for themselves.” She also credits Eric Stern, deputy director of Berkeley Law’s Career Development Office, for being “wonderfully supportive” to her and other clerkship applicants.
Bock was also “very excited to hear I’d be clerking with Matt and Anuradha, both of whom have generously given me advice at different points during and after law school. I’m so proud to be a part of the Berkeley Law community. It feels quite special to represent the school during the term with the largest number of Berkeley Law clerks.”
From baseball to law
Like Bock (who rowed at Harvard), Rice is a former Division 1 college athlete. He played baseball at Western Kentucky University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mechanical engineering.
After being the final player picked in Major League Baseball’s 2010 Draft—1,525th overall—Rice returned to college for his senior season and became an All-American catcher. Drafted in the ninth round by the Tampa Bay Rays, he played two successful seasons in their minor league system before shifting gears, and now finds some common threads between success in sports and the law.
“The important parallels that I have seen are that consistent effort and a team-based focus lead to quality results,” Rice says. “I played with an exemplary group of teammates throughout my baseball career. During my clerkship [with Ninth Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta], our chambers developed a similar atmosphere. I have no doubt that a similar team dynamic will be present in Justice Thomas’s chambers.”
Now an associate at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., Rice adds that he is especially grateful to Ikuta and Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo for their guidance and support in pursuing a Supreme Court clerkship.
“Appellate judges like to brag about their former clerks, and I expect to have many opportunities to brag about Matt in years to come,” Ikuta says. “I’m confident that Matt’s off-the-charts legal skills will make him an outstanding asset for Justice Thomas.”
Also working in Washington, D.C., as a senior associate at WilmerHale, Sivaram represents clients in complex appellate and Supreme Court litigation matters. She joined the firm after clerking for Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and fellow Berkeley Law graduate Judge Amul Thapar ’94 (now a Sixth Circuit Judge) at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
While clerking on the Ninth Circuit, Sivaram interviewed with Justice Sotomayor. Although she did not receive an offer, Sotomayor said she would keep her resume on file and hoped to see her again in a few years.
Regarding her upcoming clerkship, Sivaram says, “I’ll be intellectually challenged in ways that I’ve never experienced before, but I’m confident in my ability to handle whatever comes my way based on what I’ve learned during my time at Berkeley, in my clerkships, and as a practicing lawyer. I expect that the experience will show me how to be a more principled lawyer, a sharper writer, and a more rigorous thinker.”
A Stanford graduate with a degree in economics, Sivaram was an honors paralegal in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Section before law school. She won a best brief award in the McBaine Honors Moot Court Competition and graduated Order of the Coif before embarking on her clerkships.
“Anuradha is a fantastic law clerk and lawyer because she’s tireless, selfless, and dedicated,” Thapar says. “She is also a wonderful person and a good friend to all who are lucky enough to get to know her. I was lucky to have her as a law clerk and am privileged to call her a friend.”
Tyler echoed that praise for Sivaram, Bock, and Rice.
“The law school is proud and thrilled to see three of our outstanding graduates rise to the privilege and honor of clerking on the Supreme Court next Term,” she says. “It is a reflection on our incredibly talented student body.”