UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For many constitutional law experts, working at the U.S. Supreme Court is a dream—a place where the most important and contentious legal issues of the day are decided. That dream is now a reality for Dr. Mark Storslee, assistant professor of law at Penn State Law in University Park, who is working as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the 2021-2022 academic year. As a law clerk, Storslee will assist Justice Gorsuch with legal research on the issues and questions being addressed by the court.
“The Supreme Court has a certain mystique—it’s a fascinating institution and obviously a really important institution since the founding of this country, especially for legal scholars,” Storslee said. “To be part of that process, to see how the court operates and how the justices work through difficult questions, is a dream come true for me.”
In addition to personal and professional development, Storslee’s clerkship will also benefit students upon his return to Penn State Law, where he teaches courses on civil procedure, the federal courts, constitutional law, and the First Amendment.
“Bringing back some experience at the Supreme Court is going to help me enrich the classroom experience for them,” Storslee said. “Seeing these Supreme Court advocates in action is really valuable and I think will give me some insight to share with students about strategies for arguing your case in front of a judge.”
Gaining new knowledge from a real-world environment aligns with Penn State Law’s mission to provide students with experiential learning through its nine legal clinics, Externships Everywhere program, moot court and mock trial competitions, legal journals, and many more extracurricular opportunities.
“Being selected for a Supreme Court clerkship is, first and foremost, a tremendous achievement for Assistant Professor Storslee,” said James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park and the School of International Affairs. “But it is also a big advantage for our current and future students, who will be learning constitutional law from a professor with direct, behind-the-scenes experience at the Supreme Court.”
It is fairly uncommon for current law professors to serve as Supreme Court clerks—the general tendency has been to hire practicing litigators who have completed one or two clerkships in appellate courts. But, given the skills and expertise of law professors, Storslee wonders if that trend may be changing.
“Law professors are geeks—we love reading Supreme Court cases, we love thinking about how the cases fit together, we love thinking about what they mean, where the ambiguities are,” Storslee said. “I think all of those things are valuable to advocates at any level, the Supreme Court included.”
Storslee’s background makes him well-suited for a position at the Supreme Court, given its focus on cases that touch on our fundamental rights and penchant for arguments that consider the historical traditions underlying the law.
Prior to earning a juris doctor from Stanford Law School, Storslee completed a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he explored the interactions between religious communities and liberal democracies. After entering the legal academy, he shifted his expertise to constitutional law and specifically the freedoms of religion and speech.
“All of this is really about fundamental questions on the structure of government, the nature of rights, and the balance between government power and individual freedoms,” Storslee said. “To be able to put all of my interests together in the context of the law, it was easy—I knew I had found my niche.”
Storslee has published in the University of Chicago Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, The Review of Politics, and Political Theology, among other journals. He is also a co-editor of Comparative Religious Ethics: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (Routledge, 2014).
He previously clerked for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and served as executive director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. In 2020, Storslee was awarded the Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship by the Law and Religion Section of the Association of American Law Schools.