Jamie Saul is a young lawyer, a graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland and one-time law clerk in the Seattle office of Earthjustice. As he entered his third year of law school, he applied for a position in the Department of Justice in order, as his application said, to “serve as part of the team charged with enforcing the world’s most comprehensive environmental laws, and with defending the crucial work of our environmental and resource management agencies,” a thoroughly noble sentiment for a lawyer at the beginning of his career.
He didn’t get the job.
Imagine his surprise, then, to read a few weeks ago in The New York Times of a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that found a systemic pattern of rejecting not only applicants for the so-called Honors Attorney position that Jamie sought, but also for summer internships based on their perceived pro-environment bias. Indeed, nearly a third of the applicants were rejected for purely political reasons, which is illegal as well as unfair. Any mention of “environmental justice” or “social justice” appeared to be grounds for rejection, as was membership in Greenpeace or work for Earthjustice. Here’s Jamie’s own account of the episode.
Jamie is doing fine, by the way, working as a staff attorney at Midwest Environmental Advocates in Madison, but he worries. He told me he knows students at Lewis and Clark who are afraid to do public-interest law as students for fear of harming their chances of working for the government one day. Maybe things will change with the next administration.