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Vermont Quarterly

Young Grad Gains Insider’s View of the U.S. Supreme Court

Caryn Devins in Washington D.C.
Photograph by Will Kirk


Young Grad Gains Insider’s View of the U.S. Supreme Court

By Jon Reidel G’06

Since graduating from UVM in 2010, Caryn Devins has gained a remarkable understanding of federal and state courts, including by serving as a law clerk for three different judges.

As a capstone to this experience, Devins was chosen as one of four Supreme Court Fellows by a nine-member commission assembled by Chief Justice John Roberts. Devins was assigned to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, where she will work with officials in the judicial branch of the federal government and engage in projects examining the federal judicial process to identify solutions to problems in the administration of justice.

"I definitely feel very fortunate that they are willing to take a chance on me as a lawyer just starting out in my career," says Devins, a 2013 graduate of Duke University Law School.     

Devins started her fellowship in August, following a clerkship with the Honorable Peter W. Hall of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In many ways the fellowship is ideal for Devins, who is interested in administrative and procedural process as it relates to sentencing. She got a first-hand look at this area of law while clerking for Chief Justice Paul Reiber on the Vermont Supreme Court following law school. She also served as law clerk for the Honorable James P. Jones of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia.

Her experience helped inform a research proposal Devins wrote as part of her Supreme Court Fellowship application. She would like to examine the process involved in reducing sentences and how it is done differently in district courts around the country. “I am interested in finding out whether variations in procedure among courts might lead to different outcomes in terms of whether people get their sentences reduced and by how much,” she says. “It’s a great example of how administration can affect people’s lives in deeply significant ways.”

Created in 1973 by the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, the Fellows program was designed to provide awardees with practical exposure to judicial administration, policy development, and education, as well as unique insight into the challenges of federal court management.

If not for the advice of her political science professors at UVM, Devins, says she would likely not have pursued a career in law. Her advisers Caroline Beer and Professor Alec Ewald were particularly supportive of her next steps after graduation.

As for the future beyond the fellowship, Devins says she would like to work in a more rural area, perhaps even her native Vermont. “Ideally, I would like to work as a federal public defender, which is my dream job, but those positions are hard to come by. I’m not sure what I will do next, but if you keep your eyes open for opportunities like this fellowship, they’ll come to you and sometimes that’s better than having things planned out far in advance.”

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