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tv   QA Tiffany Wright  CSPAN  December 11, 2017 5:59am-6:59am EST

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wilmer hale senior associate tiffany wright talks about the challenges she overcame to become a lawyer and supreme court clerk. ♪ brian: tiffany wright, what was it like being a clerk to a justice of the supreme court? tiffany: it was incredible. sometimes, very overwhelming. the court is -- i describe it as a magical place. it is white marble. when you go in, everywhere is white marble. and as a clerk, you get to go to the inside "golden gate." that is when i always felt the awe and the honor of going to the place where the public cannot go, where the business of the court really happens. i never lost that throughout the full-year. it was a really meaningful and beautiful experience. also, very hard. brian: what was your year? from what date to what date?
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tiffany: july 11, 2016, and ended on july 7, 2017. brian: who did you work for? tiffany: justice sotomayor. brian: has there been anybody like you who ever served as a clerk, our audience will see why i am asking this. tiffany: i don't know. i know the reporter tried to figure out if there had been anyone specifically from the -- from southeast d.c. and that particular socioeconomic background that i had, and because of the court's extreme rules about confidentiality and the sometimes unwillingness on the part of former clerks to talk about themselves and the experience, it is really hard to say things like "no one has ever," so we not sure, but my year, i was certainly the only person who was african-american in the very beginning until justice gorsuch was the only one
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who was a mother and the only one who came from a background like mine. brian: what about age? tiffany: actually, it was pretty diverse in terms of age. one of my co-clerks and i were the same age, 35 and 36. there were quite a few older clerks. i think in the past, the , justices have gotten people straight from law school, and that is changing a lot. they are looking for people with a little more life and legal experience, so the age of the clerks is ticking a bit upwards. brian: we ask you to chat because of a man who spent a long time doing an article that ended up on the front page of "the washington post," john woodrow cox. who is he? tiffany: he is amazing. he is a reporter for "the washington post." he was working on a series of stories about children in the united states who have had
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experiences with violence. and i believe there were four or five stories in that series. all of them, just really heartbreaking and really beautiful, and the way that i got in contact with john is he wrote a story about a young child here in d.c. whose father had been murdered and he was six or seven. and i read that article while i was at work at the court and it really hit me because i recognized a lot of myself in the child and i felt very strongly that if i could, i would like to reach out to him and talk to him and pass on some of what i have learned and how to deal with that experience and how to push through. and to let him know there was hope on the other side, so i emailed john and i asked him if he would pass along a letter. a letter i wrote for the child in the article, and he said sure. in the course of us talking
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about that, he asked if he could write an article about me. and i had a good excuse at the time, which is at the court does not allow us to talk to the price in any capacity, but i really needed time to think about it, because as i think it is clear in the article, a lot of what was covered in very personal, things i have not spoken about and i needed time to see if that is something i wanted to do, and once my term at the court wrapped up, i talked to my husband and some friends, and realized that the reason i reached out to john about the child in the article was that i wanted to say to him a number of things i thought would be helpful, and if i can do that for other children, beyond this one, then that could be a really meaningful thing, and certainly something that would have meant a lot to me when i was in that place several years ago. john and i worked together over the course of a few months, talked to my husband, my family,
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my colleagues, my judges, and put together something that i really think is beautiful, and i said to him i am eternally grateful for the compassion and the way that he wrote the story was very -- he handled it exactly the right way. brian: front page of "the washington post." what was the reaction to it? tiffany: i received a lot of positive reaction. washington post." the most meaningful has been exactly -- it confirmed why i wrote the article in the first place which is i have gotten a lot of feedback from students and children that read the story and now see what is possible. and that has been so meaningful to me. the reaction has been amazing. lots of emails, lots of messages. i tried in the beginning to respond to everyone of them, but
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i could not, so the reaction has been very heartwarming. brian: your undergraduate work was where? tiffany: at the university of maryland in college park. brian: what did you study? tiffany: psychology and criminal justice. brian: your law degree comes from where? tiffany: georgetown. graduated in 2013. brian: your son is how old? tiffany: 10. brian: you met your husband where? tiffany: the university of maryland. brian: when you were serving, you had a son to worry about plus your job? tiffany: yes. i married well. which i think is key to a happy life. my husband has been just quite amazing in the way that he has handled all of this, because as hard as the court was, when i was in law school, i was working full-time. noel was two at the time.
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and so, went to school at night and had to study ended law review and everything i could possibly do, and throughout all of that, i never had to worry about noel because my husband took amazing care of him and it never became an issue between the two of us. when i decided to apply to the court, it is something we talked about, what the hours would be like. and how i knew that this was going to be a really demanding year, and my husband was one of my biggest supporters who pushed me and said "you should definitely do this." brian: what are you doing today? tiffany: today, i am an associate at a law firm in d.c. i am an appellate lawyer. and focusing on government, government-facing litigation, the litigation where someone is being investigated by the government, whether state or federal or looking for a way to deal with particular challenges as a result of that. brian: and what impact did being a clerk have on you getting this job? tiffany: my relationship with
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the firm actually goes back to before i was a clerk. i left the justice department, which is where i was for my first three years of law school to go be a summer associate. they were kind enough to recognize that by leaving the justice department, i had given up health insurance and things my family needed so they let me stay, so i worked there for my last year of law school. when i finished at the court it , was just natural for me to return to the place i had looked at as home in terms of law firms. brian: where were you born? tiffany: tacoma, washington, on the fort lewis army base. brian: what were your parents like at that time? how long were you there? what were they doing? tiffany: my parents married after high school. they both grew up in washington. my father enrolled in the army shortly after they graduated from high school, and they both moved to washington state to
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fort lewis, and that is where i was born. we were there for about two years or three years before my parents separated and my mom moved back to the district and my father followed a couple of years later. brian: where did you live here in the district? tiffany: i lived in south east, across the street from a housing development. known as potomac gardens. on thirteenth street is where my house was located. and i lived with my grandmother, who had left an abusive marriage in virginia and come to d.c. with her five children, and all of them, and including me and my cousin, lived in this house. my grandmother had five kids. two boys and three girls. one of them was my mom. by the time i came back to the district or shortly thereafter, both of my uncles were sent to prison, convicted of robbery and one of them, sexual assault.
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the other, armed robbery. and so, for the part of my childhood that i can remember, it was my mother, her two sisters, my grandmother, and my cousins in the house on 13th street. brian: what is the first thing you can remember, and at what age, that the living conditions were like? tiffany: i remember what i now call chaos, so i remember the adults always coming and going. my mom worked a lot, so i remember her not being present a lot. i remember knowing that there was something that they were doing that i was not allowed to see because i was always told to leave. those are my earliest memories are my cousin and i being outside, waiting for whatever was happening to finish, and i now know that that was drug use.
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and that is my earliest memory, feeling even as a child that something was not quite right. brian: how old were you? tiffany: at that time, i must have been six or seven. brian: and when did you first know what was going on and did you ever ask your mother or grandmother what was going on? tiffany: i was a very talkative and inquisitive child, so i did ask, and it was grown people's business. it is nothing you need to worry about. you stay out of it. it actually was not until a little bit later that i understood what was happening, and the effects that it was having. i think i was about nine when i came to understand what was going on. brian: how well did you know your uncles? tiffany: not well before they went away. i know them very well now, but they were sent away when i was still pretty young. one of them, even as a child, i
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was pretty close to, because one thing that we did every saturday was my grandmother would take me, and i don't remember whether my mom went. i'm sure she did. but the memory is my grandmother and i, there was a van that would come to woody's department store and we would go down to lorton, virginia, which is where the maximum security prison was, and we would go in and visit with him, and this is something we did all the time. and i just remember knowing that this was a family member and somebody that i love and feeling a lot of guilt that this was the situation he was in and watching and wishing that there was something i could do about it so that he could come back home. and so, i did feel like i knew that uncle pretty well. brian: how long was he in
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prison? tiffany: about 25 years. he was not released until i was well into adulthood. brian: did you ever talk to him about his life and what happened? tiffany: no. i mean, one of the things about my family that is in some ways a blessing and in other ways a curse is that we don't really talk about things. i think it is a survival technique. talking about things makes them more real and thinks them very difficult. when my uncles were released -- i should back up -- i did not even know what he was in prison for until i was working at the parole commission, my second job after graduating from college, and somebody at the commission says "do you know that your uncle was in jail for rape?" and i didn't, because nobody ever talked about it. we did not talk about it. both of them have been out.
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i will say i am incredibly proud of them because they were released. they have worked very hard, have families, have family, and to me, they are very loving and demonstrate everything that is possible for people after being released. brian: where do they live? tiffany: still in the district. brian: did they read the article? tiffany: i have not talked to them, so i don't know. released. brian: did you worry at all that they would read the article? tiffany: i did. one thing i worried quite a bit about, and my husband and i have had i don't know how many hours of conversation about this, is trying to strike a balance between telling my story and being as truthful as i can, not wanting to make anything seem better than it was because it is not the point of the story -- the point of the story is lost. like, i want everybody to understand how hard it is to have hope if you are in that
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situation. i did not want to cover anything up. at the same time, i felt a lot of guilt talking about other people. in ways that were not always flattering. so i worried extensively about it. thankfully john was very , understanding and wrote the story, particularly certain parts that i worry about very delicately, so i do worry about that. i still worry about that. thanksgiving might be really interesting. brian: where will you spend thanksgiving? tiffany: my parents now live in richmond. my mom remarried my stepfather, who i don't call my stepfather except when i am trying to explain situations like this. my second father is pastor of a church in richmond, and when i left to go to the university of maryland, they moved to richmond, so they have been
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there since 1999 or so, and that is where we traditionally spend thanksgiving. brian: when you were growing up, how was your schoolwork, how were your grades? tiffany: they were great. my son found a box in his room that i had been keeping in his closet that had all sorts of things. and one of them was a collection of my report cards, and so, the grades were great. the behavior was not always great. a lot of being very talkative, and i noticed around the time my father died, it was very interesting. you would think it was the opposite way, that my behavior and work became much better and i became a better student in terms of grades and my behavior, which improved a lot. brian: 1989, your father died how? tiffany: my father was a correctional officer here in d.c. at d.c. jail, so he kept really late hours.
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someone knocked on the door and when he answered it, he was shot to death. brian: where were you at the time? tiffany: i was with my mother. that is all but i want to say about that. brian: i don't know how far you want to go back, but what was the impact on you at the time? tiffany: the impact on me was -- it was tremendous. it was definitely the most devastating but also the most transformational moments of my life. what happened, my mother told me -- i believe it was the next day -- that he had in fact died. and, i thought that i understood what that meant, but this was my first experience with death. i don't think i even had a pet
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that died. she said he was in heaven, but we went to the funeral and i remember he was there, his body was there, and he looked so much like he did in life that i thought that heaven must be here on earth because he is just here in his sleep. it was not until i touched him and realized that he was gone because the body was so cold and he was lifeless. and i became -- it was not grief at that point. it was a form of fear that was very extreme. it was, the best way i can describe it is you have a nightmare, you wake up, and for a few seconds, you don't know if it is real. and so the cold sweat and the stomach dropping and just feeling in the fight or flight moment is how i felt. that is my memory from the funeral, i walked around like that for a long time.
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brian: what was your relationship with him? tiffany: my father was very quiet. he was not shy, but he was quiet. but he was a man that had a lot of presence. and so, for me, and i think this must be true with most children, he was definitely my security. and i looked at him as invincible. and even though i thought -- i think i had some inkling that obviously things were not the safest, but when he was there. i did feel safe. that is what he was for me. my security, strength, and always knew that he, for some reason, very much believed in me even when i was young, and so, always would tell me that i have so much potential and can be
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great, whatever i want to be. so he was both my security and my sort of confidence. when i lost him in the way that i lost him, it was incredibly no difficult. -- it was incredibly difficult. brian: for someone that has never been to washington, and you say you lived in southeast washington, and not many people there get to do or can do what you're doing. explain that. tiffany: this has been -- when i was coming up, it was the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. d.c., which traditionally has a about 90 to 100 homicides, the year my father was killed had 489. and most of those were in southeast, and there are some neighborhoods were that it's really concentrated. the potomac gardens area is one.
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all of the area known as anacostia were just centers for a lot of crime, a lot of very serious drug use, and just the way the neighborhood was described, which was an open-air market for drugs. that is what it was like. it's very different now. i don't recognize it now. it was very poor and hit very hard by crack cocaine. brian: how many people in your family got on drugs? tiffany: all of them except my grandmother. my grandmother, who passed away in 2008, she to my knowledge never did drugs. she struggled a lot with alcohol. i always think that that is how she dealt with what must've been
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a very difficult time. she worked hard every day. she was gone before 5:00 a.m. and she came home and did it every day. so her struggle was alcohol but the other adults all struggled with drugs. whether it was crack cocaine, but heroin, marijuana am obviously, pcp, lsd, cocaine, in various forms. any drug that you can think of is something that someone in my family at some point struggled with. brian: there is a reference in the article about kids in the neighborhood making fun of you in relationship to your aunt who was accused of being a prostitute. what can you tell us about that? tiffany: so that is a factual question. i'm going to dodge it and say it does not matter whether what the
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kid said was in fact true. it matters that that is what i believed and my reality at the time, and so, that is prostitution in exchange for crack cocaine. that certainly happened. it always hurts when i hear people say that drug use and drug addiction are victimless crimes. because there are victims we don't talk about and we don't know about. living in that type of environment, even for the kids who made fun of me and for myself, we were dealing with things we should not have had to deal with. hearing that from the kids -- it had never crossed my mind. i did not know what sex was. when i heard this, the first thought i had was "well, what are you talking about and what is it?"
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and then, you know, that was my first introduction to sex at 9-years-old. it had a lasting impact on me which took many years of therapy for me to get through. it was incredibly difficult without saying anything about what her situation actually was. it was very difficult for me. brian: when did you start therapy, and what kind of therapy was it or is it? tiffany: i thought i was taking my -- my husband to therapy when we started to have a number of communication difficulties and decided to go and speak to someone for about one hour every week, and we would drive very far. out to virginia. we lived in laurel mountain and -- we lived in laurel, maryland and would talk to someone once a week, and we did that for a couple of years. and as i said, i thought i was going for him. it completely turned around and
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we spent a lot of time working through some of the things i had not talked about and had not thought about and had not dealt with, and it was meaningful work, and work that i encouraged when i meet people who have had similar experiences to mine. it is the first thing i say is "you should go and sit down with someone," because it changed my life. i probably have a lot more work to do, but it definitely put me on the right path. brian: how many of your friends, relatives, that you knew when you were young, have come out of that environment and been successful? tiffany: quite a few, actually. my cousin, who i referenced in the beginning, who lived with me, it was her mom who had the biggest impact on me and showed me what drug abuse can do and what it can do to your body and how awful it is and who i credit with being one of the major
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forces and pushing the major forces and pushing me out of that and into education and her daughter, my cousin, is now a director at the department of the interior. she has been incredibly successful in her career. my friends, i have a group of women that i grew up with that i stay close with. since the article ran, we spent a lot of time talking about what our experiences were again, and all of them are incredibly successful. one of them is a law professor. one is a teacher in the district. one is a writer. it was us all very proud of surviving. brian: how did you get out of all of this? when did it start that you saw you could someday be a clerk for a supreme court justice? tiffany: i don't think i ever thought that was possible. until it happened. but that fear that i felt after my father's death, for a long
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time, that fear and anger over not knowing what happened to him is what pushed me forward, so immediately, at the funeral, it is one of the thoughts i had. all i could think was "i have to get out." i have to get out, and i felt very strongly that if i did not get out, i would end up like him, and i did not know how, but i met a lawyer who i was blown away that he was someone who looked like me because i did not know any lawyers that i could talk to, that i could touch, who could be role models for me. brian: where did you meet him? tiffany: my father had a lot of life insurance and pension from his time in the army, and i was a beneficiary. because i was underage, it was put into a trust, and a lawyer managed that trust from the time when i was 7-years-old until the last time i saw him, maybe 19.
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brian: he's now dead? tiffany: he is now dead. brian: he was an african-american? tiffany: first of all, the drive to his office was just -- we went from my neighborhood, which was concrete, brick, not very pretty, and things started to change. the drive to silver spring, maryland. there were trees and beautiful houses, and they were all these office buildings, and i am thinking what do i have to do to get to a place like this? and just being blown away on the drive of what i was seeing. i get to the office, and a man who, his name is on the building, and his name is on his office door, and i walk in, and he is black and the first thing i said to him "what do i have to do to be like you?" and and he said, read a lot and become a good writer. that became my roadmap.
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i became obsessed with it. that is what i did. brian: what did you read? tiffany: anything. everythign. -- everything. magazines. anything that was at home. i became afraid to sleep at night so i would read until the sun came up. i read the bible. maybe six or seven times, cover-to-cover. i read everything i could get my i read everything i could get my hands on. i became very focused on how they used language and how they put sentences together. and how powerful books were in allowing me to escape to other places and i was reading about
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people who were in pain and coping with it. sometimes in healthy and somethimes in unhealthy ways and when i am not working, i read. i read two books a week, sometimes more. that is how meaningful reading became. from reading, i learned to structure my own writing. an him himd so that is something i've worked quite a bit on. he said if you read and become a good writer, you become like me. when i talk to my friends to come from southeast or similar places and we talk about how we push through, the common theme is we all wanted something better.
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we experienced things that made us want to get out. brian: how hard was it to get into georgetown law school? tiffany: for me it was hard. by the time i applied, i thought i was ready. i had decided that it was a huge commitment financially and in terms of time. along the way, there were points when i almost went another way. my first two years of university of maryland were difficult. i had always been a great student and i got to maryland and had to take remedial math. i was devastated. because now, maybe i'm not as smart as i thought i was. all these other people were maybe the real smart people.
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then i failed a class and i got a "d" and a "c." it was the first time i saw a's and b's associated not with me. the fall semester my grades were a, b, c, d, f. i went home that semester with the intent of not coming back. in my mind i started to think, well, everybody in my family, they are making it. they are doing fine. they did not go to college. this is something i really struggled to do. i came close to giving up and then i remembered why i was doing it in the first place. and what really did it was, well, how very disappointed my father would be if i gave up and how disappointed all the people who pushed me would be. my aunt, how disappointed she
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would be. i discovered student loans and went back to school and maintained a's for the rest of my time at maryland. when i thought about georgetown, i was terrified that was and it. -- that was an experience i would repeat. i had to get over that and all the things running through my mind. that was the hardest thing. the application was easy, the lsat was easy relatively. it was dealing with my fears. the things inside of me that were holding me back. brian: lsat law school application. tiffany: yes. brian: what year did you finish georgetown?
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tiffany: i graduated in 2013. when i left georgetown, i said nothing will be undone when i walk out of here. georgetown was significant to me because my first job was working in the georgetown law school. a cashier in the bookstore. i would look at the students and think how lucky and blessed they were to be here. and now i was going to be one of those students i looked up to. that pushed me to work like a crazy person. i existed on very little sleep. i went at night, i did not go during the day. it took me four years. my first year i did very well. the top 2 percent of my class. georgetown does not rank
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students but they will let you know if you're in the top 5%. it was important to me that i never fell out of that. i graduated within to top 5%. georgetown does not tell us exactly where, but i was somewhere in there. i was the editor in chief of their journal and review of criminal procedure. i did a national competition for court and won national best brief in the regional championship. i did everything that i could possibly do. i co-taught at a competitive fellowship program where you work with the professors to teach first-year students legal research and writing. brian: did you maintain a full-time job? tiffany: i did. brian: what was your job during law school?
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tiffany: the first three years i worked at the united states attorney's office at the district of maryland. what i was doing is working on narcotics conspiracies in baltimore and then i transitioned to greenbelt where i did nothing but ms-13 prosecutions for a long time. i was in charge of all of the evidence. there was a large room where we kept every piece of evidence from writings from ms-13 members in prison to machetes. i was in charge of knowing where that was at all times and discovery, which is the process by which lawyers turn on evidence to the other side to give the knowledge of what will be presented at trial. when i finished my first year, we had two capital trials.
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one went to trial and we prepped for another. then the defendant accepted a plea for life in jail. i drafted briefs. that is what i did every week. i would leave around 4:30 and go to class. class with every day, monday through friday. sometimes it was 5:45-7:45. sometimes they went to 9:00 at night. i had to study, do my journal work, my court work and it was what life was like. brian: i want to jump.
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some video of a circuit court judge in this district by the name of david. i want to say is look closely at david and you will see why -- he would not mind me saying this -- as a matter of fact we have tried to get him to come here. here is someone you clerk for. [video clip] >> in the late 60's and early 70's, we thought we would solve this problem. that poor people in the country would have access to the legal system. we thought that goal was obtainable. here we are today, some 40 years later, and you heard the number from jonathan. 80 percent of poor people who need legal services cannot get them.
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in washington, it is 90 percent. and in some specific field like housing, it is 98%. [end video clip] brian: tell us what people do not know when they watch david? tiffany: he was the second justice for the district clerk judge before him. the person who started me on the path was the judge. i did not know who he was but i knew this was someone i wanted to work for because what you just saw is something you -- he dedicated his life to. i clerked on a trial court at first and then i went to him. judge tatel is --if i wanted to
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pick a lawyer i wanted to model my career and life after --i hope i can have half the talent and integrity he has. incredible meaning, he is very meaningful to me. working for him --as someone new -- who loves to write and keeps that as my main goal --there is no better writer than judge david tatel. i worked with him for a year and the way his process works is you write something and then you go in to his office and read it outloud including the punctuation. he edits it verbally. now i am not with him, there's nothing i do not write that i do not read out loud, including the punctuation. and edit myself. he changed the way that i write
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and view the law. that year with him was incredibly special. brian: i have to ask you because you've worked with him. how does he do it? he travels on the metro, the subway. tiffany: he does travel alone. in terms of work, his mind is incredible. i would be reading something to him and he would say go back up three paragraphs. he could quote what i said verbatim and show how it contradicted what i said before. his mind is absolutely -- it blows my mind. he works with readers who are people who read much faster than i can.
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if you heard them read, you would not be able to keep up. about two times normal speed. technology allows him to listen to briefs and everything no matter where he is. that is how he does it. brian: you have my permission to tell him we're hoping someday he will come tell us all about this. and how he does it. tiffany: i will ask him. brian: how then, after you clerked for him. you have done district, circuit and then you decided --did someone encourage you to apply for the supreme court? tiffany: i decided not to apply for the supreme court when i started with judge tatel. financially it was difficult. you do not make much as a clerk. brian: what do you make?
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tiffany: it starts about 65 and can go up to 75. to a lot of people that sounds like a lot of money, but i had a quarter million dollars in student loan debt. student loan companies do not care if you have this great clerkship. they want their payments. and all of my other life expenses were there. i decided that another year on that salary would not be sustainable. i was anxious to start working and, if i'm totally honest, i was convinced i would not get it and i hate rejection. i had convinced myself i'm not going to get that. judge tatel said, after we work together on our first opinion, he said he thought i was ready for that job. he asked me if i had my application materials ready and i said no. he said go do that and then talk
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to me. my husband and others were very helpful. i mailed my application materials on january 13, which is the day my father died. i tried to take that day back and turn it into a special day instead of a sad one. but that morning i discovered a typo, which was probably my father looking out for me. so i snatched the application back and sent it a few days later. then i heard from justice sotomayor maybe three months after i sent my application. her clerk called me and said the justice would like to have you in for an interview. i asked if he was serious and immediately started crying.
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i did not think that would happen. i did not think i would get the interview. i prepared for the interview and i had about two weeks. prepared harder than i prepared for the bar exam. brian: what did you do to prepare? tiffany: i read all of her opinions since she is been on been on the supreme court. brian: how many? tiffany: gosh, well over -- 40 probably. part of the interview might be expecting me to talk about what areas of the law are important to me and how i think they are developing. i reviewed those things. the supreme court decisions i least agree with. i put together an outline of 49 pages. i did a mock interview with
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friends and that is how i spent about two weeks getting ready for the interview. brian: how long did she spend with you? tiffany: it was about a 30-minute interview with the clerk and i spent 30 to 45 minutes with the justice. brian: when did she make up her mind? tiffany: april 8 was the day of my interview and i knew the justice did not hire until november or december. she was honest with me, you may not hear for a while and it was awful. i did not hear back until june. i became so nervous about it that i would keep my phone on silent and facedown so i would not be watching it. i missed the call and then i had to work up the courage to call back. by this time, it was a job i
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really wanted. i finally called her back and she offered me the job. it was lifechanging. brian: here is justice sotomayor, she is on the second district court of appeals, she is talking about clerks at that time. see what you can help us understand. [video clip] >> i read all the briefs that come in first. i make a type up summary of the case i can use and i list the questions i have as a result of the briefing. i look at the articles raise by the parties of what my reaction is. some questions i know the answer to and i have some experience in certain areas.
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on some, i tell them do not bother researching that. the law clerk will then write a bench memo and that will be an analysis of the case. i see a recommendation from my law clerks as to what the outcome should be. [end video clip] brian: sound familiar? tiffany: absolutely. that is exactly what working with her was like. brian: what is a bench memo? tiffany: a bench memo is where you read all the briefs followed by the parties. sometimes there are nonparties that file briefs, which are people who think they have something to say that might help the court. the record below includes the decisions of the lower court. any facts established, summarized. you write that into a memo and
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the most important part is when you lay out the party arguments and make a recommendation on how the case should be resolved. one of the amazing things about clerking at the court is the volume of the work. there are some times when it should take about a week but you have it due in 48 hours and you do not sleep and get it done. brian: i want to show 25 seconds of an interview we did in our series on the court in one of the offices so people can see the environment. this is stephen breyer's office. [video clip] >> this is where the clerks are. our messenger and such.
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they are here for a year. i have four clerks. there are nine of us and each of us have four law clerks. they are valuable. indeed crucial. [end video clip] brian: your office looks like that? tiffany: a little different. i know that office well. all of us stick together. brian: how can you write, think and read while you're there together? tiffany: i didn't. i would write when other people were not around. most of my writing got done very early or late at night. it is hard because in some ways it is good to have three brilliant people who are your
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colleagues. the clerks of the court are truly -- i was impressed with how smart they were. to have people who can talk through any legal issue, in some ways, that makes it easier. brian: if i understood you right, there is one black out of 36 when you were there. why? tiffany: there are so many answers. that is something the federal courts have really struggled with. on any given year, there are 2.5% african-american clerks in the entire federal judiciary. latinos are worse. 1.2%. at the court it is especially bad. i was the only one. there may be some years when there are only two. that is a good year. i think the pool the justices
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are looking at is small. if you are a viable candidate, you went to a great school and have impressive people speaking up for you. you clerked for a small number of judges who routinely feed clerks to the court. for an african-american or latino to get into that pool, it has so many obstacles it becomes a real problem. and i think it hurts because the perspective of diverse law clerks is so important. and every one of my clerkships, there was a case where i felt like i saw something because of my life experience that someone else did not see. brian: in just a couple of minutes we have left, talk to the people who came out of your same kind of environment that you did and tell them not with
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what that lawyer said but tell them in your own words about getting out of that world and having the same chances you had? tiffany: to get out, you have to want it more than anything. you have to be willing to keep moving forward at all times and you should know that, in the end, i believe everything you go for works for your benefit. if you keep moving forward in order to get the success that you want, you have to be more creative than other people. you have to look to resources that, when you don't feel like you have any resources, you have to find them somewhere. it could be a public library, it could be a teacher, asaying hey
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could you stay after school and work with this for a while with me? do not be afraid to email people who are doing things you want to do. if you see someone on tv and he was a learned something from them, email them. i was so afraid to ask for help. but do not be. sometimes people will not respond but sometimes they will say yes and it will change y -- -- change your life. all the struggle comes together for your good. brian: the reason we asked you to come here was this front page article in the post. it was september 28. was there anything about that article you did not like? tiffany: no. no. no.
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and i actually sent a text message to john to say that. i was so nervous about this article. brian: did you think it would be on the front page? tiffany: i did not. i thought it would be in the local pages buried in the middle. i did not expect that. but there was nothing. everything i was worried about either wasn't included or was written very delicately. i am really happy with the way it turned out. the one thing i wish was there, it left out the second half of my life. obviously because you can only go on for so much time but i want to say that one thing that helped was i always knew there were adults, as imperfect as they were, they loved me very much. my mother, second father and siblings always loved and encouraged me.
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later in life, we became a very normal family. out of all of the dysfunction in the beginning, we became a very normal family. i love them and they have been a major source of positivity. brian: we put your email address on the screen. someone who wants your help and can email you. tiffany: i will respond. brian: thank you very much for telling us your story. tiffany: happy to be here. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]
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>> for free transcripts were to give us your comments about this program, visit us at qanda.org. programs are also available as free c-span podcasts. if you enjoyed this week's "q&a" interview with tiffany right, here are some of the programs you might like. angela wright talks about her role as the executive director and general counsel for the congressional black caucus. professor deborah rhodes discusses her book "the trouble with lawyers." and mark farkas talks about the series "the capital." watch these anytime or search our entire video library at c-span.org. announcer: next, live, your calls and comments on "washington journal." then, live at 10:00 a.m., a discussion on the possible
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consequences of the u.s. exiting the nato treaty. then the u.s. house gaveled in for general speeches. announcer: this week on "the communicators," two telecommunication advocates talk about net neutrality in regulating the internet like a public utility. >> number one, deregulate broadband. it takes broadband oversight out of the fcc entirely and gives it to the federal trade commission, which does not have strong tools. number two, it eliminates the rules against internet service providers like comcast and at&t, blocking, throttling traffic, and allowing for what is called self, charging online providers to get to the consumer faster for a better quality of service. thirdly, and this is really important, it preempts or

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