An April 28 A-section article about the Attorney General's Honors Program incorrectly said that one lawyer hired through the program had been a clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. The lawyer was a summer intern for Pickering while he was in law school.
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Political Appointees No Longer to Pick Justice Interns
"The 2007 changes to these programs represent another step in the department's multi-year effort to enhance these prestigious programs," Boyd said.
According to current and former Justice employees, many of whom spoke about fellow lawyers on the condition of anonymity, the centralization of the honors program selection process in the hands of political appointees markedly changed the profile of the entry-level lawyers hired, particularly in the department's civil rights division.
Since 2002, when Ashcroft adopted the hiring method the department is now abandoning, a large share of honors hires have had strong conservative or Republican ties, according to Justice lawyers and law school career-placement officers.
Bill Condon, an honors hire in the civil rights division who graduated in 2004 from Regent University, a small Christian school in Virginia Beach, recounted his job interview recently in the school's alumni magazine. Condon wrote that, when an interviewer asked him which Supreme Court decision he disagreed with most, Condon cited a 2003 ruling that struck down a Texas law outlawing homosexual acts, a decision that has been a lightning rod for social conservatives.
One of his interviewers, Condon wrote, suggested that, coming from Regent, "I may be interested in some religious liberties cases" the civil rights division was bringing in a new area of emphasis for the division.
According to a former deputy chief in the civil rights division, one honors hire was a University of Mississippi law school graduate who had been a clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. about the time the judge's nomination by President Bush to a federal appeals court provoked opposition by congressional Democrats, who contended that Pickering was hostile to civil rights.
A few months after he arrived, that lawyer was given a cash award by the department, after he was the only member of a four-person team in the civil rights division who sided with a Georgia voter-identification law that was later struck down by the courts as discriminatory to minorities, according to two former Justice lawyers.
Another honors hire, a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law who had been president of the campus chapter of the Federalist Society, displayed a bust of President James Madison in his Justice office, according to a former honors program lawyer who was hired during the Clinton administration. A profile of Madison's face is the logo of the society, which is based on conservative precepts.
"When I started," the former honors program lawyer said, "it was rare you met people whose civil rights credentials were that they were part of the Federalist Society, but it became a commonplace thing."
Justice officials say it is hardly unusual for a lawyer to be a member of the Federalist Society, which has more than 30,000 members in 65 chapters worldwide.
Harvard Law School officials said they contacted the department last fall, after students seeking internships expressed concern that they had not been notified by October whether they would be granted an interview, as the department had promised.