Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Chief Judge Pryor Vindicated on Clerkship Hire

Back in October, Eleventh Circuit chief judge William Pryor received intense criticism for hiring a law clerk, Crystal Clanton, who had been accused of making vile racist remarks. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus devoted an entire column to the matter, and less reputable voices on the Left piled on. In November, seven members of Congress sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts urging an investigation of Pryor and of a district judge, Corey Maze, who had also hired Clanton as a law clerk.

As Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Second Circuit chief judge Debra Ann Livingston conducted such an investigation, and her investigation vindicated Pryor and Maze. Some excerpts from Rankin’s article:

The Turning Point executive “had determined that the source of the allegations against (Clanton) was a group of former employees,” Livingston wrote. “One of these employees was fired after the organization learned that this person had created fake text messages to be used against co-workers, to make it appear that those co-workers had engaged in misconduct when they had not.”

Pryor and Maze knew about the allegations against Clanton when they interviewed and hired her. And both determined the allegations of racist behavior by Clanton were untrue and found she was highly qualified to serve as a clerk for them, Livingston wrote.

“There is nothing in the record to dispute any of this,” she noted.

The “undisputed record,” Livingston added, shows that Pryor and Maze “performed all the due diligence that a responsible judge would undertake.”

Justice Clarence Thomas also wrote a letter to Livingston on the matter:

In his letter, Thomas said he and his wife took in the distraught Clanton after she left Turning Point USA. She lived in their home for almost a year, the justice said.

Thomas, who said he recommended to Pryor that he hire Clanton as a law clerk, added, “We have reached a sorry state of affairs when a young adult can be indelibly marked with today’s ‘scarlet letter’ of defamation. This is especially true in the judiciary.”

In his letter, Pryor said Thomas told him that Clanton “was a victim of a pernicious attempt to portray her as a racist.” Thomas also said Turning Point USA had conducted an internal investigation and found that a “rogue employee” had compromised the accounts of several co-workers.

After discovering this, Turning Point fired that employee, Thomas said.

The reason Clanton never spoke out against the allegations is because she is bound by a non-disclosure agreement with her former employer, Pryor wrote. Upon learning this, Pryor said, he reached out to Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director of Turning Point, and asked him to explain what had happened.

In his letter to the court, Pryor quoted a passage from a letter Kirk had sent to him in response.

“The media has alleged that Crystal said and did things that are simply untrue,” Kirk wrote. “I have first-hand knowledge of the situations reported on and I can assure that the media has made serious errors and omissions. The sources of these reports are a group of former employees that have a well-documented desire to malign Crystal’s reputation.”

The employee who was fired had “created fake text messages to be used against other employees,” Kirk wrote.

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