A word of caution to law clerks who have just started their clerkship terms and to soon-to-be law clerks: a sure way to be fired from a clerkship is to tweet in real time about a case before the court. Sarah Peterson Herr was recently promoted to research attorney for a Kansas Court of Appeals judge. Perhaps feeling a little cocky, she tweeted during a Kansas Supreme Court hearing for the former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline that the court would disbar Kline, whom she called a “douchebag,” for no less than seven years. The court is considering disciplinary action against Kline for possible ethics violations during his investigations of abortion clinics. The Kansas Supreme Court announced on Monday that it had decided to terminate Ms. Herr’s employment because of her tweets.
Law clerks are extensions of their judges and must act accordingly. It is no surprise that Ms. Herr was let go. The court had no choice. Although she is a research attorney, her job description reads very much like a law clerk’s: “ascertaining facts from a record of legal pleadings and trial transcripts, researching applicable law, and providing comprehensive legal analysis from an objective viewpoint.” The judiciary is charged with neutral interpretation of the laws and impartial adjudication of disputes based on those laws. It is impossible for judges to fulfill these obligations if their representatives/mouthpieces are spewing bias.