Talking with A former Supreme Court law clerk


Name: Brian Goldman
Age: 30
City: Oakland
Position: Attorney


J.: You’re a native San Franciscan and attended Brandeis Hillel Day School. But then you spent most of your 20s in New York, D.C. and L.A. What brought you back?

Brian Goldman: I’m at one of San Francisco’s oldest firms law firms: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. I wanted to end up back in the Bay Area — because why wouldn’t you want to be here? My family and my wife’s family are here as well.

Brian Goldman

J.: What are you most proud of thus far in your legal career?

BG: During my second year in law school at Stanford, I worked on a case with one of my professors that was before the Supreme Court. It involved prosecution by the government under the aggregated identity theft statute. The government had been using it as a criminal prosecution against undocumented immigrants who were using false Social Security numbers for various purposes.

They were going after these immigrants for aggregated identity theft, which carries a hefty prison term beyond just deportation and other consequences. But identity theft really means when someone else’s identification numbers, like a bank account number, are used for purposes of accessing a victim’s finances or credit. We presented that argument and the court agreed with our position, 9-0. It was amazing to see the legal process at that high of a level.

J.: What do you re-member from Brandeis Hillel Day School?

BG: The significance of community service and being involved with my community. Tikkun olam and tzedakah were very much part of my upbringing and really shaped my commitment to public service that has followed.  

J.: What’s your affiliation these days?

BG: What goes along with moving around so much is that you’re never quite settled in one community.  My family still belongs to Beth Sholom in San Francisco.

J.: You have a rescue dog?

BG: She’s a mutt from Taiwan — born on the streets of Taipei. We adopted her when we were in law school. My wife and I went to the local rescue agency and fell in love with her. They handed her over to us with her importation paperwork. She’s probably better traveled than we are.

J.: Do you miss the Jewish delis in Los Angeles and New York?

BG: I definitely miss Langer’s in L.A. And we lived not too far from Katz’s when we lived in New York. Those are the two I miss the most.

J.: In D.C., you clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. What was that year like?

BG: It was an incredible experience, probably the most exciting year of work that I might ever have. To be able to work with such incredible and dedicated judges, and be able to see the court from that perspective, was a real privilege. So was the chance to work with the other law clerks.

Last year, the night before the Supreme Court arguments over same-sex marriage [Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage], my wife and I hosted the first seder at our house. We had the clerks for [Antonin] Scalia and [Elena] Kagan over for it, because we were all friends and it didn’t matter that our bosses didn’t see eye-to-eye on the issues. It was a warm and friendly environment.

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Abra Cohen