Why Can’t ATL’s Rubino Leave Clanton Alone?

When the news broke, it was unsurprising that Above The Law’s Kathryn Rubino, whose only cognizable legal skill is brutally vapid snark, seized upon it. After all, it had all the makings of a salacious story at the new, woke ATL, the smart, witty ATL birthed by David Lat having long since been murdered in the name of selling advertisements and gaining the eyeballs of the woke T14 kids.

There was a conservative law student, and she was a RACIST!!! Well, at least that’s what someone said.

I’d say Crystal Clanton just keeps failing upwards, but given that outrage is currency in right-wing circles, it is more accurate to say that her career is progressing on schedule. Do you remember why Clanton first became a news story? It’s been a minute, so I’ll cover the deets. 

Deets? How hipster. Here’s the “deets.”

In December of 2017, the New Yorker reported that Clanton, who at the time worked at the conservative student group Turning Point USA, texted co-workers with this hateful message:

I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.

To be fair, the New Yorker reported it, and Clanton worked for the hated Ginni Thomas, wife of the hated Justice Clarence Thomas, so it was certainly red meat for the Rubino grinder. But then it got even juicier.

And she was out at Turning Point USA. There were more reports of bigoted comments from Clanton, but she managed to bounce back with a job with Ginni Thomas (Clarence’s wife). She then was admitted to ASSLaw — otherwise known as George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, for the uninitiated — and will graduate this semester. Her post-graduation plans include some incredibly prestigious clerkships — with Judge Corey Maze of the Northern District of Alabama next year and Eleventh Circuit Judge William Pryor for 2023-24.

Now it wasn’t just about some student who sent an awful racist text, but the judges who loved her. This could not stand.

Given her rather notorious history, members of Congress demanded an investigation into Clanton’s hiring, saying litigants and attorneys before the judges “are left with the impression that the judiciary is comfortable turning a blind eye to the hiring of an individual with a pattern of making racist and discriminatory remarks in precisely the forum the federal courts—where there is supposed to be justice for the victims of such discrimination.”

And an investigation was performed, with the matter sent to the Judicial Council of the Second Circuit for investigation, which issued a report concluding that the allegations against Clanton were untrue. Rather than let it go, admit she might be wrong, or even consider that the judiciary isn’t one huge racist conspiracy, Rubino used the only tool in her bag.

So, the federal judiciary has better investigative resources than the New Yorker now? And let’s not forget when Turning Point USA was confronted with the messages in 2017, they told the New Yorker, “Turning Point assessed the situation and took decisive action within 72 hours of being made aware of the issue,” and shortly after, Clanton was out at the organization. There was also an intense amount of scrutiny in 2017 and since then, this is the first time there’s a whiff of fabrication. (Though notice the language in the decision falls short of explicitly saying that Judges Pryor and Maze determined the allegations were based on falsified documents.) Additionally, there does not appear to be much inquiry into the racially charged Snapchats Clanton was accused of making.

The father of ATL, David Lat, whose efforts and wit made the site one of the most significant law blogs around, gently responded at his substack, Original Jurisdiction, picked up by Eugene Volokh at VC, to clear the air.

At the time, I did not jump on the Pryor-bashing bandwagon. After noting that he’s (1) a smart person who knows how to run a Google search and (2) a highly regarded Supreme Court feeder judge, I argued that Chief Judge Pryor “wouldn’t want to ‘waste’ a clerkship on someone who would be radioactive to the justices.” So I speculated that there must be more to this story

And there was more.

In her ruling, Livingston cited one of the Turning Point USA’s executives who said Clanton treated everyone with “kindness, respect and fairness.” This person also said “the media reports are not accurate,” Livingston wrote.

The Turning Point executive “had determined that the source of the allegations against (Clanton) was a group of former employees,” Livingston wrote. “One of these employees was fired after the organization learned that this person had created fake text messages to be used against co-workers, to make it appear that those co-workers had engaged in misconduct when they had not.”

Pryor and Maze knew about the allegations against Clanton when they interviewed and hired her. And both determined the allegations of racist behavior by Clanton were untrue and found she was highly qualified to serve as a clerk for them, Livingston wrote.

For the second time in recent vintage, Lat took his former site to task, the first time being Joe Patrice’s refusal to concede that his insufferable snark about Traphousegate was false, as he had been with the Federalist Society, But this time, ATL chose to destroy a law student who had been determined not to have done what was claimed.

The point isn’t whether you accept the findings of Second Circuit. Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston, or Judge Pryor or Justice Thomas. It’s entirely fair to dispute their conclusions. The point is that a website surviving on Lat’s legacy, because no one would otherwise give a damn what Rubino (or Patrice) had to say about anything, has not only put in such extraordinary effort to destroy a conservative law student, but persists in trying to damn her despite despite the outcome of the investigation and the conclusions reached by numerous judges.

This emits the stench of desperate pandering to ATL’s remaining readers, law students and baby lawyers for whom someone to hate matters most. And pathetically, Lat did his job too well in building ATL’s credibility such that this law student will be tainted in perpetuity for what she most likely did not do. But then, she is a conservative even if she is female, so why should Rubino care about the damage she’s causing an innocent law student when there are clicks and woke glory to be had?

8 thoughts on “Why Can’t ATL’s Rubino Leave Clanton Alone?

  1. Mike

    I know this basically reiterates ATL, but thoughts? Doesn’t seem to be a lot that “this is true” but rather “no one is 100% denying it to my satisfaction so it can’t be false”.

    [Ed. Note: Link, link, no links. Try this: Ruth Marcus in her WaPo op-ed entitled “The Curious Case of the Clerk and the Racist Texts” argued… And as a courtesy, here’s the link because I can.]

    1. Mike

      Thanks for the suggestion; Ruth Marcus in her WaPo op-ed entitled “The Curious Case of the Clerk and the Racist Texts” argued that the evidence existed for the New Yorker to prove enough that she sent the texts. This combined with a lack of explicit denials from the major players is enough for Marcus to conclude there is no innocence.

      Aside from outright admonishment from the 2nd Circuit, I’m curious if there is anything their report could have contained that suggested Clanton was innocent and had been received positively.

  2. Dan

    “So, the federal judiciary has better investigative resources than the New Yorker now?”

    Duh. Why would this even be a question? I’d assume this to be the case any day of the week, and twice on Sundays–and that’s assuming the New Yorker even cared to, you know, investigate, an assumption that isn’t likely warranted here.

  3. Quinn Martindale

    The scrutiny makes sense because she was the national field director of a prominent organization, and, as you say, there are fair criticisms of the process that took place. The fact that Judge Pryor just took Charlie Kirk at his word despite the inconsistency with Kirk’s past actions is itself newsworthy.

    1. PK

      The Host says it’s not about whether you agree or not, and you jump in and say “well, I don’t agree.” Thanks for your contribution today. Just come out and defend ATL if you think they are reporting on a valid newsworthy story. That’d be far more interesting than this, considering what the Host said about it. Try harder next time.

  4. B. McLeod

    I suspect ATL’s traffic is down a lot from the old days. Prior to the death of comments there, it was a decent comment site. Now I think it is mostly useful for the BigLaw associates interested in comparing compensation and leaking firm scandals. All the leftist devotion is, as you have noted, a post-Lat pandering which, perhaps, helps all the young readers to pretend they haven’t sold their souls to the senior partners a long time ago. I don’t follow the site much anymore, because there is rarely anything there of much interest.

    1. Miles

      I think you miss a rather important point. First, it was Lat, then Elie, and eventually Patrice to do the scutwork. When Lat left, ATL went begging for content, and posted ridiculous crap like that mindfulness moron who wrote the same post over and over about how sad and pathetic she was, to fill the space between associate salary and inside biglaw gossip.

      Then one day, out of nowhere, it went woke, and people like Rubino showed up to whine as if anybody gave a shit that she existed. But for Lat’s legacy readers, there would be no one feeding ATL the biglaw inside info and certainly no one reading some nobody like Rubino. Now, they have some new kid whose writing sucks and thinking is even worse.

      But the law students and baby lawyers still think this is what a law blog is, what law is, because of the reputation Lat built. ATL may be nothing more than nobodies pandering to other nobodies, but the next gen of lawyers believes what it’s telling them. And somebody like Rubino, who would be doing real estate closings at best if she had to practice law, gets to write this crap and kids who don’t know better think she’s an important legal voice.

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