The Guardian reported Thursday that a prominent professor at Yale Law School told a group of students last year that if they wanted to clerk for Brett Kavanaugh, they should consider their appearances, as it was “not an accident” that his female law clerks “looked like models.”
The advice was handed out by Amy Chua, who is known at the Yale Law School for her ability to help students secure clerkships, including with Kavanaugh. Nothing in what she said indicated that Kavanaugh himself had ever specified that his female law clerks have a certain look. But it did raise questions about why Chua—and her husband, another prominent Yale Law professor—believed that physical attractiveness would be relevant for these high-profile clerkships.
Chua is better known among the broader public as the controversial but bestselling “Tiger Mother.” She has been a vocal supporter of Kavanaugh, whom her own daughter will clerk for and whom she called a “mentor to women.”
The Guardian report said that Chua reportedly told female law students preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh that they ought to dress in a traditionally attractive, feminine way for the judge. Her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, handed the same advice out to a female student, telling her that Kavanaugh liked a “certain look.” One former student said Chua told her to send photos of what she planned to wear so Chua could give advice on the outfit, according to another report from HuffPost.
According to the Guardian, in at least one instance, the advice deterred a student from pursuing a clerkship with Kavanaugh. A clerkship with the judge was known to be important, as Kavanaugh often vetted potential clerks to serve under Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Chua and Rubenfeld were not known to hand out similar advice for other judges, the Guardian reported. But the advice still raised eyebrows, and Rubenfeld is currently under his own internal investigation by the university, which is looking into allegations of inappropriate conduct relating to female law students, though it’s unclear what the specific allegations are. Students have also raised concerns about Chua’s influence over the clerkship process, according to the Guardian.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which once looked all but assured, has come into question after he was accused of sexual assaulting a fellow student when he was in high school in the 1980s. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is negotiating conditions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans, who control the committee, are attempting to move quickly and ensure a vote happens before the midterms. Ford and Democrats in the Senate are attempting to resist the Republicans’ urgency and are calling for an impartial investigation of the allegations.