I love that you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and know all types of law in this job.
When Amanda Gaynor ’02 began working with Judge John Jones III in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Williamsport, Pa., she had no idea that her research and writing would be behind the scenes of two of the most important legal opinions of the past decade.
In 2005, Jones ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classes was unconstitutional, and in 2014 he ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1996 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
“[The same-sex marriage ruling] was a huge decision, but there was an element of predictability because of what other courts were doing. While we weren’t bound by what other courts had done, those opinions were influential.”
Gaynor played a key role in crafting the same-sex marriage opinion. “My perceptions have always aligned with the judge’s ... our decisions are made behind closed doors until we reach a consensus.”
Gaynor remembers the backlash from the 2005 intelligent design case, including threatening phone calls and letters. “It happened two months after I started working with the judge.”
It was a business law class at Bucknell, she says, that prepared her for the academic rigor of law school and the examination style. “You get one final exam [in law school]. And you have one shot to ace it,” says Gaynor.
After graduating ninth in her class from New York Law School, Gaynor admits that she found this particular judicial clerkship through a twist of fate — she applied to more than 300 judges along the East Coast. Judge Jones was one of the first to call her in for an interview.
She clerked for him for two years, then decided to leave to gain experience at a law firm as a litigation associate, but within two years she asked the judge if she could come back — this time as a career clerk. In her current position, she is the leader of the law team, triaging work and assigning tasks to two clerks who recently graduated from law school.
The variety of cases filed in federal district court invigorates and challenges Gaynor, from civil rights cases, to complex commercial disputes, to high-level criminal prosecutions.
“I love that you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and know all types of law in this job.”
Posted October 2014
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