Father Reidy Goes to Washington — As Supreme Court Clerk

Notre Dame law professor Father Patrick Reidy will clerk for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, starting in October.

Father Patrick Reidy sits in the St. Thomas More Chapel inside Notre Dame Law School.
Father Patrick Reidy sits in the St. Thomas More Chapel inside Notre Dame Law School. (photo: Courtesy of University of Notre Dame)

WASHINGTON — Holy Cross Father Patrick Reidy, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, will clerk for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming term. Few lawyers have the privilege of clerking for a sitting Supreme Court Justice, but Father Reidy’s vocation to the priesthood makes his situation even more impressive. 

“I believe he’s the first priest to serve as a priest and Supreme Court clerk simultaneously,” said Father William Dailey, who is, like Reidy, both a Holy Cross priest and a lawyer. The Register inquired at the Supreme Court Public Information Office and the Supreme Court Historical Society to verify the novelty of Father Reidy’s clerkship, but neither organization maintains sufficiently detailed records of past clerks. 

A native of Colorado, Father Reidy was the salutatorian of his graduating class at the University of Notre Dame, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science. After graduation, he entered formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross — the order that founded and continues to serve at Notre Dame — and earned his Master of Divinity from Notre Dame. 

Father Reidy was ordained to the priesthood in 2014, and he worked in a variety of pastoral and administrative positions before enrolling at Yale Law School in 2018. During the following summer, he worked as a judicial intern for Judge Thomas Hardiman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“I met Father Reidy as a Yale Law student, and I hired him as an unpaid intern after his first year of law school,” Hardiman told the Register. “I don’t hire interns as law clerks — that’s pretty much a rule. But he was doing such incredible work as an intern that all of the clerks with whom he worked that summer came to me and said, ‘This guy is already doing the work of a law clerk, and he only has one year of law school under his belt.’”

Impressed by Father Reidy’s work, Hardiman decided to hire him to clerk after graduation. During the intervening summer, the Holy Cross priest worked as a legal intern at Becket, a nonprofit, public-interest religious-liberty law firm. Then, from 2021 to 2022, Father Reidy clerked for Hardiman.

“He’s an outstanding legal scholar, a very hard worker and a great teammate,” Hardiman said. “It was a pleasure to have him in chambers.”

Following Father Reidy’s clerkship in Hardiman’s chambers, he served as a fellow in private law at Yale Law School’s Center for Private Law from 2022 to 2023. In 2023, he returned to Notre Dame as an associate professor at the law school. There, he teaches courses in land use and property and serves as the faculty co-director of the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate’s Church Properties Initiative, which facilitates proactive stewardship of church property in service of evangelization and charity. Father Reidy declined to comment for this article.

Notre Dame Law School Graduation
Father Patrick Reidy addresses new lawyers and their guests at the 2018 Notre Dame Law School graduation in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo: Robert Franklin/Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame)


Supreme Court Comes Calling

“Each year, the justices of the Supreme Court … hire about 40 law clerks, selecting from among the most accomplished and promising young lawyers in the country,” said Notre Dame Law School professor Rick Garnett, who clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Garnett explained that justices often hire lawyers who have previously clerked for lower-court judges. 

Supreme Court clerks assist judges by reviewing trial records, researching relevant laws and judicial precedent, and workshopping draft opinions for judges. 

“My phone was ringing off the hook with justices who were interested in interviewing [Father Reidy],” Hardiman said. “Justice Kavanaugh was first. … Father Reidy is a great lawyer and a great American, and I’m thrilled that he’ll have another opportunity to serve the country at the next level.” 

Father Reidy is one of two Notre Dame law professors who will clerk for the Supreme Court starting this summer in anticipation of the upcoming term. Christian Burset will serve as a law clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Some might find it strange to see an ordained minister working for the judicial branch of the federal government. But it is not necessarily “a conflict for a priest serving as a law clerk,” Father Dailey said. Following his graduation from Columbia Law School, Father Dailey clerked for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

 “Father [Reidy] and I have both pursued law degrees after being ordained because we serve in a religious community focused on education,” Father Dailey explained. The two men met through the Congregation of Holy Cross more than 10 years ago, and both served as rectors of residence halls at Notre Dame during the same period. 

The Code of Canon Law states that “clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.” Though clerks support the work of a justice or judge, their role is scholarly — not political. 

“Clerks advise judges, but the judges exercise all the power,” Father Dailey said. “Priests as law clerks are quite safe, since the ethical obligations of working in the judicial branch also require one to refrain from public partisanship.”

The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion and guards against official establishments of religion. But, as Garnett, the director of Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Church, State, and Society, explained, “The Constitution does not impose any limits on the ability of religious people — including clergy — to participate in the legal profession, the legal academy or in public life.” 

“[Father Reidy’s] reputation as a student, lawyer, scholar and priest is glowing,” Garnett said. “Notre Dame Law School is both fortunate and honored that he has joined our tenure-track faculty.”