Married alumni clerking for federal judges

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Newlyweds Erin Cox (’12) and Rachel Halfpap (’11) are serving as clerks for federal judges in the Central District of Illinois. A federal clerkship is one of the most highly sought positions for recent law school graduates. In the fiscal year 2011 (the most recent statistics available), only about 2 percent of applicants were selected for clerkships with federal judges. And to have a married couple both selected for clerkships in the same district is rarified air, indeed.

(Photo by Marc Featherly, Illinois Wesleyan University)

Cox is a term clerk to the Honorable Sara Darrow, who is an expert on federal criminal practice through her experience as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States District Court.  “I am responsible for being intimately familiar with the facts of each case before her, conducting legal research to assist the judge’s determination of which party should prevail, and drafting a written order or opinion for the judge’s review,” Cox explained, adding that federal criminal practice is of great interest to him and he considers himself highly fortunate to learn from Judge Darrow’s experience.

Halfpap works for the Honorable Michael Mihm, who has been on the bench for over 30 years. “He’s incredibly knowledgeable and a really great mentor,” said Halfpap, adding that she, like Cox, assists in researching and writing draft opinions. Halfpap primarily works with civil issues on Mihm’s docket, which include contractual disputes between individuals or organizations, violations of constitutional rights, employment discrimination claims, or habeas corpus petitions.

The two met at Illinois Wesleyan, where they graduated together in 2008.

Both will leave their clerkships in August, when their terms are complete. They plan to move to Maine, where they both interned two summers ago. In Portland, Cox will begin another clerkship – this one for the state Supreme Court – and Halfpap will look for another position.

Long-term goals may well include public service for both of them, although the two attorneys say that verdict is not in yet. “One of the things I like best about clerking is you get to draw on many different areas of the law, and become well-versed in different aspects,” said Halfpap.

(Article by Kim Hill, Illinois Wesleyan University)