Brown ’17 Earns Supreme Court Clerkship

May 26, 2021
UCLA Law alumna Whitney Brown

UCLA School of Law alumna Whitney A. Brown ’17 will clerk for Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2021-22 term. She will begin her service on the nation’s highest court in Washington, D.C., starting this summer.

Brown is the 20th UCLA Law graduate ever to clerk on the Supreme Court and the first since Rachel Bloomekatz ’08 clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer during the 2011-12 term.

Brown is an attorney with Stoel Rives LLP in Anchorage, Alaska, where she is an associate in the firm’s litigation group. She previously clerked for Judge Morgan Christen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Justice Goodwin Liu of the Supreme Court of California, and Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“At every step of this journey, I have been buoyed by the support and encouragement of my UCLA professors and classmates, my judges, and my colleagues, friends, and family,” Brown says. “I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to serve Justice Sotomayor and the Court.”

During her tenure at UCLA Law, she served as the editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review and co-president of the Health Law Society. She was also part of a team of students and faculty members who successfully represented a client before the high court in the 2017 case Nelson v. Colorado, as part of the law school’s Supreme Court Clinic. Before law school, Brown was a health policy adviser in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and an evaluator of charter schools in Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree in anthropology, with honors, from the University of Chicago and her graduate degree in public health from Emory University.

Brown currently serves on UCLA Law’s Board of Advisors. Her former UCLA Law professors are not surprised by her remarkable journey since law school.

“This is a well-deserved honor,” says Professor Joanna Schwartz. “Whitney was a standout in my civil procedure class, and she carries important qualities that will serve her well with Justice Sotomayor and in the years that follow: impeccable judgment, maturity, kindness, and grace.”

Seana Valentine Shiffrin, UCLA Law’s Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice, says, “Whitney’s skills, dedication, character, and demeanor are exemplary. She collaborates extremely well and is a remarkably forthright but humble leader who is successful because she both has an eye on the big picture and tracks down all the details. She’s mature, empathetic, and has a good sense of humor.”

UCLA Law graduates have served as Supreme Court clerks since 1954 – just two years after the law school celebrated the graduation of its first class – when Harvey Grossman ’54 began his clerkship with Justice William O. Douglas. In the decades since, another 18 alumni have clerked for 10 different justices, including Douglas, Chief Justices Earl Warren and Warren Burger, and Justices John Paul Stevens, Thurgood Marshall, William Rehnquist (before he became chief justice), Byron White, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

“In the finest tradition of UCLA-trained lawyers, Whitney combines compassion and intellect in equal measure, and she has a tremendous ability to see both the forest and the trees. She cares about the intellectual integrity of legal argument, and she cares about law’s effects on real people,” says Dean Jennifer Mnookin. “I’m thrilled she has this well-deserved opportunity and know that Whitney will continue to make her alma mater proud.”

Sixty-one UCLA Law graduates and students have earned clerkships for the upcoming 2021-22 term and following years, including one on the U.S. Supreme Court, 25 on federal circuit courts of appeal, and 33 on federal district courts, as well as others on federal bankruptcy courts and state supreme and appeals courts.

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