Seven Law School Alumni to Clerk on US Supreme Court in 2020-21 Term

Note: This story was updated in November to include two alumni clerks—Madeline Lansky,’ 16, and Nick Harper,’15—who were hired by newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Seven University of Chicago Law School alumni will clerk on the US Supreme Court in the October 2020 Term, marking the 48th straight year in which a Law School graduate has clerked on the nation’s highest court.

Madeline Lansky, ’16, and Nick Harper, ’15, will clerk for Justice Amy Coney Barrett; Patrick Fuster, ’18, will clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts; Krista Perry, ’16, and James Burnham, ’09, will clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch; and Amy Upshaw, ’16, and Philip Cooper, ’17, will clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. All seven previously clerked on the US Courts of Appeals.

“The justices have hired seven extraordinary Chicago-trained lawyers to be their clerks,” said Lior Strahilevitz, the Sidley Austin Professor of Law, who co-chairs the faculty clerkship committee with Jonathan Masur, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law. “I was fortunate enough to teach Patrick, Krista, Amy, James, and Nick while they were students here, and both Phil and Maddy were widely admired by their professors. Each excelled academically, became heavily involved in student organizations, and earned the respect of their peers. It’s especially fun that alumni classes spaced nearly a decade apart get to celebrate the contributions of their graduates to the highest Court in the land this term.”

The Law School’s clerkship numbers have risen in recent years, and it is typical for there to be multiple alumni clerking on the Supreme Court at once: in 38 of the past 48 years, two or more clerks on the Supreme Court have been graduates of the Law School. In 16 of those years, four or more Supreme Clerks have been Chicago alumni—including in 1993, when there were eight, and 1994, when there were seven. There were four last year, when Mica Moore, ’17, clerked for Justice Elena Kagan; Kelly Holt, ’17, and Stephen Yelderman, ’10, clerked for Gorsuch; and Caroline Cook, ’16, clerked for Thomas.

Lansky and Harper, who are part of Barrett’s first group of Supreme Court clerks, have each clerked on the Supreme Court previously. Lansky clerked for Thomas in 2018. She previously clerked for now-Chief Judge William Pryor on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and worked as an associate at Bartlit Beck in Chicago. Harper clerked for now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2017. Previously he clerked for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and has worked for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. This also will be Perry’s second Supreme Court clerkship: in 2017, she clerked for Kennedy. She has also clerked for Pryor on the Eleventh Circuit and worked as an associate at Bartlit Beck in Chicago.

Fuster has clerked for Judge Paul Watford on the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Vince Chhabria on the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Burnham, who clerked for former Judge Alex Kozinski on the Ninth Circuit in 2009, has held several senior positions in the US Department of Justice, served in the White House Counsel’s Office as a senior associate counsel and special assistant to the President, and was an associate at Jones Day. He has also served as a lecturer at the Law School, where he co-taught a seminar with Clinical Professor Alison Siegler in 2011 and 2012, “Federal Sentencing: Balancing Judicial and Prosecutorial Discretion.”

Upshaw has clerked for Judge Diane Sykes on the Seventh Circuit and has worked as an associate at King & Spalding in Washington, DC.

Cooper, who famously received the highest score on the Texas bar exam, has clerked for Pryor on the Eleventh Circuit and for Judge David Stras on the Eighth Circuit.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court justices continue to recognize the excellence of Chicago graduates,” Masur said. “For a school of our size to have seven alumni clerking on the court in a single year is remarkable. I had the great pleasure of teaching Maddy, Patrick, Krista, Amy, and Phil, and I’ve gotten to know James and Nick over the years as well. It was evident from the start that they were destined to achieve great things. I suspect this is only the beginning.”