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Hillsdale alum Manuel Valle will clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 2021 | Wikipedia Commons

Manuel Valle ’11 will become Hillsdale’s seventh graduate in the past eight years to clerk for a Supreme Court justice. During the October 2021 term, Valle will clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. 

Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter, who is also the faculty adviser for the college’s Fed­er­alist Society, said Valle will be the second Hillsdale graduate to clerk for Thomas. Schlueter said Hillsdale’s core cur­riculum and pro­fessors prepare stu­dents for success at law school. 

Megan Lacy ’07 is cur­rently a clerk for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Michael Fran­cisco ’04 is clerking for Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

“Hillsdale taught me how to think through problems and be grounded in the matters of the Con­sti­tution and Western values,” Fran­cisco said. “It was a chal­lenging edu­cation that gave me the skills I needed to succeed as a lawyer.” 

Valle studied English and Latin at Hillsdale and said there was not a class at law school that pushed him as much as his freshman year English class with Pro­fessor of English Justin Jackson. 

“Hillsdale’s rig­orous liberal-arts edu­cation gives you fun­da­mental skills that are nec­essary for studying law, espe­cially the ability to analyze dif­ficult texts and then write clearly about them in a way that’s easy for people to under­stand,” Valle said. 

After teaching at Glendale Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Arizona, for three years, Valle attended law school at the Uni­versity of Chicago and grad­uated in 2017. 

Upon earning his law degree, Valle began his first clerkship in August 2017 for Hon. Edith H. Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Houston, Texas. 

Jones said she was most impressed with Valle’s humility and extra­or­dinary legal talent.

“The qual­ities I most value in clerks are dili­gence in legal research and reviewing the trial court record and briefs, plus accuracy in all the details of case man­agement, writing con­ven­tions, cita­tions, plus the ability to spot issues our court has to tackle, and finally, the ability to write clearly and on dead­lines,” Jones said in an email. “Manuel entered the clerkship exhibiting all these qual­ities, which is most unusual because for him as for most clerks this was his first real job in the law.” 

Valle said he was for­tunate to clerk for Jones because she is a phe­nomenal judge and an incredible mentor. 

“I would not have con­sidered applying for the Supreme Court clerkship if not for her guidance and support,” Valle said. “Judge Jones helped me under­stand how to approach the law because I had been just out of law school, where every­thing is still the­o­retical. She is so prin­cipled in her approach to the cases. Every single one matters to her.” 

After his clerkship with Jones, Valle moved to Michigan and clerked for Hon. Joan Larsen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 

Valle said Larsen clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and pre­vi­ously served on the Michigan Supreme Court. 

“I learned a tremendous amount from her,” Valle said. “She was also very sup­portive in the Supreme Court appli­cation,” Valle said. “It was an amazing expe­rience to work for her during her first full year in the Sixth Circuit, when she was dealing with many issues for the first time as a federal judge.” 

One dif­ference between clerking for the court of appeals and the Supreme Court, Valle said, is that the Supreme Court isn’t bound by the deci­sions of a higher court. 

“Circuit courts don’t often have cause to decide a case based on the original meaning of the Con­sti­tution because they’re bound to apply the Supreme Court precedent,” Valle said. “Working for Justice Thomas there will be more spent ana­lyzing the current legal doc­trine and trying to square it with the original meaning of the Con­sti­tution, and that’s some­thing that’s really exciting for me.” 

Valle said Thomas has always been a judicial hero for him ever since his parents gave him Thomas’ auto­bi­og­raphy “My Grandfather’s Son.” Since reading this book, Valle said he con­siders Thomas to be one of the greatest legal thinkers, and greatest American public figure alive today. 

Valle said he has also heard numerous stories from those who know, speaking to Thomas’s kindness and sin­cerity. 

“I think you can see the kind of person he is from his writing and from his speeches –– totally sincere and com­mitted to doing his job even when it’s very dif­ficult, even when the court ulti­mately does not adopt his views.” 

Lec­turer of Math­e­matics Jonathan Gregg, ’11, taught with Valle at Glendale Preparatory Academy and also attended graduate school at the Uni­versity of Chicago during the same time  Valle attended its law school. Valle and Gregg have become great friends since grad­u­ating, and Gregg said if he had to describe Valle in one word it would be “sincere.” 

“What you see is always what you get with Manuel,” Gregg said. “He’s never hiding any­thing; he’s an authentic person. And he lives exactly by the way in which he claims to and believes in. If he believes it’s good, then he lives by it.”  

Looking back on law school, Valle said that he, like many law stu­dents, was moved by Thomas’ pow­erful majority opinions and dis­sents. Over the past 30 years, Thomas has influ­enced the law in mean­ingful ways, Valle said. 

Before his clerkship for Thomas, Valle will spend the next two years working on appellate lit­i­gation at Sidley Austin LLP in Wash­ington, D.C.  

Valle said he’s antic­i­pating that his year clerking for Thomas will be one of the busiest and most demanding of his entire life, espe­cially since he will have four kids, at least, when he begins his clerkship. But he said he is also con­fident that his clerkship year will be one of the most rewarding expe­ri­ences he will ever have.