PROVO — Stephanie Barclay, a law professor at Brigham Young University and religious freedom advocate, is headed to the Supreme Court.
The first-year faculty member will clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch in the 2021 term, which begins just over two years from now, BYU announced Wednesday.
"I feel so excited and humbled that Justice Gorsuch would give me this opportunity and so much gratitude to so many friends and colleagues who helped me along this path," Barclay said.
Each year, more than 1,000 attorneys apply for about 36 spots, according to the press release.
As a clerk, Barclay will help Gorsuch study and respond to cases the Supreme Court has been asked to hear. Each justice typically has four clerks, who can be fresh out of law school or more established in their career, as Barclay is.
"In the beginning, there's a lot of looking at cert petitions to help the justices decide which are the cases that the Supreme Court should take," she said. "Clerks also help the justices prepare for oral arguments as cases are heard throughout the year."
Aaron Nielson, who took time away from teaching at BYU to clerk for Justice Samuel Alito in 2014, said in the school's press release that the job boosts a lawyer's teaching skills as well as their legal knowledge.
"Especially for those who teach litigation skills, it's very useful to understand how the Supreme Court works," said Nielson. As a clerk, "you get to see the decision-making process occur on a nitty-gritty basis a bunch of times."
BYU President Kevin Worthen also served as a clerk. He worked with Justice Byron White during the 1983 term.
Barclay came to BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a high-profile law firm known for defending people of faith. While there, she worked on a variety of religious freedom issues, including a Michigan case centered on the rights of faith-based adoption agencies that won't serve LGBTQ couples for religious reasons, as the Deseret News reported last year.
"Stephanie is an outstanding lawyer with an exceptionally clear understanding of constitutional law and appellate litigation. Her intellect and professional competence are matched by an unswerving belief in the dignity and humanity of people of all faiths, and no faith at all," said Montserrat Alvarado, Becket's executive director. "She has a demonstrated commitment to the law and to our country and will be a great asset to the Court."
In her first year of full-time teaching, Barclay has distinguished herself among students and faculty members. She was picked as "Professor of the Year" by second- and third-year law students, according to the press release.
"In her first year of teaching at the law school, she has displayed genuine concern and understanding for each student while demanding excellence from all students," said Gordon Smith, dean of BYU's law school. "She will do great service for the country."12 comments on this story
Barclay taught courses on the First Amendment and family law this year and, next year, she'll focus on the First Amendment again, along with constitutional law and the 14th Amendment. She said she's most looking forward to learning new skills during the clerkship that will boost her work in the classroom.
"I will be exposed to a whole range of legal issues and new ideas at the Supreme Court, and I really look forward to sharing what I learn with my BYU law students when I return," she said.
Barclay, who graduated from BYU Law in 2011, previously served as a clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.