Kathryn Kimball used to visit her law professors’ office hours so often, her name was once mentioned on a final exam.
Now the 29-year-old’s name has been mentioned on a Supreme Court justice’s list.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas selected Kimball as one of his clerks for 2018. She is the first UF alumna in UF Levin College of Law’s history to become a Supreme Court clerk, a position normally reserved for private and Ivy League school graduates.
“I’m highly honored that he selected me to clerk for him,” Kimball said. “I think it will broaden my understanding of the law.”
The Lakeland, Florida, native will begin her clerkship, which will last a year, in July 2018.
About 1,000 people apply for the clerkship every year. Each Supreme Court justice selects four clerks a year, which will normally total to about 36 clerks, but the number was even less because of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death earlier this year.
When considering law schools, Kimball said she saw the strong alumni network at UF and knew it would open a lot of doors for her in the future.
“I’m really thankful that I ended up going to UF,” she said.
While studying at Levin, Kimball spent the majority of her time in three places: working with Professor Michael Seigel as a research assistant, managing the Florida Law Review as an executive and serving on the law school’s honor committee.
Seigel, who died in 2015 after battling cancer, left behind words of endorsement for Kimball, knowing she would achieve great things.
Kimball distinguished herself through her work for Seigel, said Robert Jerry, a former dean of the law school. Before his death, Seigel told Jerry about a letter of recommendation left on his computer’s hard drive for Kimball.
“We were all beginning to think about the possibility that she might be someone that we all wanted to support for a Supreme Court clerkship,” Jerry said.
Jerry attached Seigel’s recommendation with his own. Kimball later learned that Seigel’s recommendation was influential to Justice Thomas’ decision.
Working as the executive editor of the comment section for the Florida Law Review helped her balance work and education, she said. The organization’s former adviser, Dennis Calfee, encouraged her to apply for clerkships and other opportunities.
“He’s been my cheerleader the whole time,” she said.
Calfee, a UF law professor, also wrote to Justice Thomas, recommending Kimball for the clerkship.
“Although she was No. 1 in her class, she took time out to tutor other people and help them with courses,” Calfee said. “Pretty amazing lady.”
Before starting her clerkship with Thomas, Kimball will continue working in the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice as a criminal prosecutor.
Kimball said she wants her efforts to help open the door for more Supreme Court justices to accept UF alumni as clerks in the future.
“I hope that it will encourage UF students to realize that they’re just as capable as other students who went to Ivy League schools, and that they shouldn’t discount their education,” she said.
Roles of a Supreme Court clerk
Prepare justices for oral arguments
Conduct research to help draft opinions
Help decide emergency applications like halted prisoner executions